Veteran Soldier pays tribute to Wrexham Maelor Hospital team who helped him get ready for his latest challenge
23 Oct | News
Shaun, 28 from Wrexham is one of five veterans from the UK and Australia to be featured in the new ‘Without Limits’ programme. All the veterans have been through trauma or injury from training or serving abroad.
The group of veterans undertook the gruelling 1,000 mile expedition across Western Australia for the two-part documentary to mark the start of the Invictus Games, the international adaptive, multi-sport event for injured and sick ex-servicemen and women created by Prince Harry.
Shaun’s injury happened when he was 19 years old in 2010. He became a double above knee amputee and was blinded when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. He has endured around 50 operations and has regained some sight in one eye.
He got involved with the expedition after receiving an email from Blind Veterans UK who asked if any veterans were interested in applying to be on the show so he decided to audition. Hundreds of people applied but Shaun fought off the competition and was selected for the programme.
Helping him prepare for his expedition, the team at Wrexham Maelor Hospital’s PAMS centre looked after the maintenance of Shaun’s prosthetic legs and they also made his prosthetic eye which is hand painted and finished with painstaking attention to detail by orbital prosthetist Clare Allen-Bull.
The team helped ensure Shaun’s prostheses were adjusted and maintained to get him through the expedition which involved travelling in adapted Landrover vehicles. They completed tough hikes, climbs, swims and river crossings across the unforgiving Australian terrain.
Shaun said, “We met up with Prince Harry in Wellington barracks, this was the day we were travelling down to Australia to start the programme, and he set us off with a challenge on the expedition to showcase the veterans expedition side of the games.
“The terrain and topography in Australia is all damaged by the weather so it was beautiful and it was amazing but I’m probably the first prosthetics user to undertake that sort of terrain. I think we were the first people to go to some of the places we went to.
“It was an amazing challenge and with me being the only prosthetics user there it was quite hard work.
Paying tribute to the PAMS team, he said, “I didn’t break anything which is quite strange for myself, I’m usually breaking parts and pieces, so the team here in Wrexham are very used to me coming in with broken parts and trying to fix things and they always get me back up on my feet straightaway.
“They have to deal with a lot with me as a patient, but they help me a lot with the way I live my life.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if they hadn’t have fixed me up ready to go before the programme so a lot of thanks goes to them.”
The dedicated PAMS team make all the adjustments to Shaun’s legs to make sure he can move as he needs to depending on the activity he is doing.
The staff working with Shaun, Prosthesis team leader Katie Davis and Senior Prosthetist Rachel Malcolm, connect to Shaun’s legs via Bluetooth and can make the small adjustments necessary to make sure he is comfortable and can use his prosthetic legs as he needs to and remain active.
Taking the time to ensure the alignment is right for both limbs is paramount and helps reduce strain on the joint. Katie Davis said, “We make sure we have got a happy medium for any different angle of slope whether it’s a little hill or a big hill and it helps us protect him from any stumbles or trips.
“The adjustments can be small but they can make a big difference so we have to test them out when going down stairs.
“Genuinely, we forget sometimes that Shaun’s an amputee because we have got to know him and the person is the most important part of the care we give.”
Shaun spoke of how he meets his challenges, he said, “At one point they (the doctors) didn’t know if I could live life like this because I lost so much of my eyesight but it’s been amazing. I was able to drive on this expedition and use hand controls.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t put hours in the gym, climb mountains and walk miles every day. It’s like everything I’ve been through was a test for this programme. I hope it inspires a lot of people because it shows you can do anything but it doesn’t just happen, it takes a lot of hard work.”
“Everything in my life is working, but the harder I work, the luckier I get. On the programme I was even able to lead at certain points. I was packing the vehicles, climbing on them and doing lots of tasks that people think aren’t possible.”
The first episode of “Without Limits” is available on BBC iplayer. The second part is due to air on October 24.