A 20-year-old man from Buckinghamshire who was plagued with leg pain due to a rare condition paid £64,000 to have it amputated – after being inspired by a dog on TV’s The Supervet.
James Bertrand has lived with constant pain due to blood clots caused by a condition he was diagnosed with in the womb.
He was given a ray of hope by an episode of Supervet in which a dog had a prosthetic limb fused directly into the bone of its amputated leg.
Tormented by pain – and having exhausted all the surgery options in the UK – he asked doctors for the same operation.
But the business student had to travel to Australia to find a medic able to do the complex procedure, which cost him £64,000.
James, who also had his left leg amputated as a child, is now on the road to being pain free and totally mobile for the first time in his life, with no regrets.
Brave James, from Chalfont St Peter, Bucks., said: “I first heard about the surgery two years ago.
“We were just sat watching The Supervet on TV and a dog was having the same operation.
“I didn’t think much of it at first.
“It was actually my mum who asked the question and that’s when it became a possibility.
“We asked my doctors in Dorset about it and they said it’s already being done on humans.
“It’s funny how it happened really. If I hadn’t have watched the show then I would never have thought to ask about it.”
James was born prematurely at 28 weeks with his twin brother Tom, due to a condition called twin-to-twin transfusion – where one gets more blood than the other.
As a result, he developed blood clots in both his legs, which meant his left leg had to be amputated when he was 18-months-old, and he wore a traditional ‘socket’ prosthetic.
His remaining right leg was also severely damaged with no main artery, which meant his foot couldn’t move, he had no muscle in that leg, and he was in constant pain.
But after more than 30 operations he thought he had exhausted surgical solutions – until he watched an episode of the Channel 4 pet show two years ago.
James was inspired to pursue osseointegration surgery – an operation that involved hollowing out the bone in his leg and fitting a prosthetic limb, just like the dog.
He found out the op had to take place in Australia – the only place to do it below the knee – and started fundraising.
His intention was to have the operation on his already amputated left leg, because the prosthetic socket caused him so much pain.
But during consultations, experts said that actually his right leg was in need of much more urgent attention – and had to be amputated too.
He was offered the traditional ‘socket’ – just like his left leg – but wanted a permanent attached limb, free of the trouble he was still suffering with his removed left leg.
James said: “My right leg got worse as I grew up and I couldn’t walk on hard surfaces without shoes on.
“My leg was just so sensitive. It was causing me more problems that my left.
“I went to see a consultant and he told me that my right leg had to go.
“He basically said ‘it’s a stick’ and wasn’t functional. I burst into tears. I couldn’t imagine not having any legs.
“Deep down I knew it was the right thing to do but I struggled to come to terms with it straight away.
“It was causing me pain but it was still my leg. I started to think about the things I wouldn’t be able to do anymore.
“I’d never be able to feel the ground when I stand up again.”
He raised more than £60,000 in 14 months and had the surgery in Sydney in May.
He flew out to for the procedure with his mum Carolyn, dad, Graham, sister, Kitty, and brother, Tom.
Now he is almost pain free and it has “transformed” the way he walks.
He also no longer experiences any discomfort when walking and anticipates being able to go on to lead a normal adult life.
He took his first steps without crutches in August and has gained five inches in height due to the new longer limb.
His new leg allowed James to stand up in the shower for the first time, and has increased his mobility and given him a new lease of life.
James said: “I can never stub my toe or stand on a plug socket, which is great.
“But I can do anything that I want to. It’s early days but it will be life changing for me.
“At first I did regret it because the recovery was so hard. It was mentally draining.
“I’m hoping to go travelling to Thailand, Indonesia and Bali some time soon. I’m a positive person and just had to stay strong.”
James also hopes to inspire others into being brave by talking about his life as a motivational speaker.
He hopes to one day set up a motivational speaking business with his brother, Tom, and travel the country sharing stories about his life as an amputee.
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