Injured veteran’s life transformed by hi-tech leg

David tests out the new limb at the Astley Ainslie SMART centre. Picture: Scott Louden
David tests out the new limb at the Astley Ainslie SMART centre. Picture: Scott Louden
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A WAR hero who lost his leg fighting in Afghanistan is now able to enjoy playing football with his son after becoming one of the first ex-servicemen in Scotland to get a revolutionary bionic leg.

Dad-of-two David Sneddon was shot in the right knee by Taliban fighters whilst commanding a local security foot patrol with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. He spent nearly two-and-a-half years undergoing a series of surgical procedures and endured two failed knee replacements before opting for elective amputation in October 2012.

David learned how to walk again with a standard prosthetic limb before being discharged from the Army in June this year.

Now the 36-year-old, from Bathgate, has been fitted with a state-of-the-art micro-processor limb – providing better stability, greater mobility and improvements in the ability to step over obstacles, negotiate stairs and play football with eight-year-old son, Cole. “When I first got it, I couldn’t adapt to it and was struggling massively because it was different to the one I had,” he said. “It took about three or four months of persevering with it.”

“I’m so glad I did. I don’t have to think about walking, I can just do it now. It comes as naturally to me as to anyone else now. I can be on my phone or doing something else and I don’t need to stop now to think what my legs are doing which is really good.”

He is one of an estimated 66 military amputees in Scotland who is benefiting from the prosthetics service launched at the Astley Ainslie Hospital’s Southeast Mobility and Rehabilitation Technology (SMART) Centre last year.

Each leg costs approximately £35,000 – and follows a £2 million investment into the centre by the Scottish Government.

David, who now works at Kingsfield Golf Centre, Linlithgow, will be fully operational when he has the last piece of the leg – the socket – fitted on Friday.

Married to Alana, and with children Cole and Mason, two, he is revelling in the relative normality his new limb had given him and said his toughest challenge now was keeping the boys entertained.

“It’s got it’s moments but being a dad is definitely hard work – even with a new leg.

“Even though it’s a good leg, I’ve still got to use a lot more energy than anybody with two legs would do.

“Come four o’clock I’m always napping on the couch.

“It has given me the ability to do so much. Cole is really active and loves playing football and now I can go and kick a ball with him, take him to the park.

“The youngest just keeps me active getting up to mischief going in the drawers, running into the kitchen and raiding the fridge.

“I can do so much now that I couldn’t do before, it’s incredible.”

The national State of the Art Prosthetics service, which became operational in April 2014 offers veterans support and direct access to prosthetics through the limb fitting and rehabilitation centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Scotland’s first Veterans Commissioner, Eric Fraser, visited David at the centre to see the work in action yesterday alongside minister Keith Brown.

David Gow, bioengineer and head of SMART for NHS Lothian, said it was a major step forward in technology.

He said: “This is what prosthetics has been waiting for – the freedom and finance to get access to this technology.”