Bionic Men: The Naked Truth

My stump is called Socket. Well, Mr Socket. I’ve got a really good party trick. I’m going to spin it all the way
round. I, theoretically, have no height
ceiling. I can be as tall as I want to be. “One foot in the grave.” “Haven’t got a leg to stand on.” BOTH: “I’ve really put my foot in
it.” If someone said to me “I can grant
your wish of giving you two hands”, I’d say, “Nah, jog on.” I have been known to exaggerate what
happened. His brother’s a bad guy and he actually cut his hand off
with a machete. You know, saving a bus full of
schoolchildren. “You’ve got a robot leg. What
happened?” So I’ll tell ’em, “A shark bit it!” And make
a big story out of it. All the little kids like “Oh, it’s
Iron Man.” Christmas 2012, we went to a pub, we
had a couple of pints. I walked home and halfway home, a
drunk driver, who was doing about 70mph
in a 30 zone. He lost control, hit me. My right leg was torn off by the
car. Left leg was crushed and shattered. I was carrying aircraft
parts up a flight of stairs, got my foot trapped, fell. I took a chip out of a bone
in my ankle. I developed a nerve condition. The slightest touches
were incredibly painful. I looked at where I could be with
a prosthetic. I was ready to say, “I’m ready
to have my leg taken off.” In 2009, I hit a telephone post at
90mph on a motorbike. I broke every bone on the right side
of the body. I shattered the pelvis, shattered the collarbone, fractured
the lower back, punctured both
lungs, tore a kidney and tore the nerves
in my arm straight out of the spine. So, I was born with amelia. When I was younger, no-one really
knew what it was. I’ve got a little bit of the wrist
and I have little tiny fingers that do nothing, but, as I like to
call it, this is my little hand. I don’t call it a stump. I don’t remember the accident. I can’t imagine it’s a very happy
memory. It’s a memory I’m quite happy to do
without. When I woke up, my mum was there by
the bed. She said to me, “Oh, you know,
you’ve been in an accident. “You’re in hospital. “You know, you’ve…you’ve got
no legs.” Apparently, I just sort of looked
down and went “Yep.” “Cool.” What am I supposed to say to that? You know, “Oh, no. I’d like them
back!” Well, you can’t have them back. I do remember saying,
in all earnestness, I said “Is my tackle OK?” For a long time post-accident, I didn’t like the way I looked. I probably thought that if I was
going on a date, the girl I was going on a date with
would be like, “Oh, that guy is an amputee. “That’s weird. I don’t want to go on
a date with him. “I don’t want to be seen
with him, or anything.” It’s been difficult to get
over. Probably six years later, I am…
I’ve mostly got past it. Dating using apps is an advantage. I have never put a photo of me
in my entirety as my first photo. I don’t blame someone for making
a snap judgment if they see a photo of a disabled
person first. I think it’d be really easy
to just not click on that profile. I have no legs. It is, in many ways, my defining
feature. But, at the same time, I would
like people to consider me before they know that. The guy that hit me, my attitude has
always been – if he learnt anything from it, he learnt it the second he learnt
what he did. And if he didn’t, then no amount of
jail or punishment or me being resentful is going to
make him learn that. So, why on Earth would I be
resentful? Resenting someone is like drinking
poison and expecting that person to die. It doesn’t do you any good. My limb difference was elective.
I chose to… this way. I had the accident on the 30th
October, 2013. And it was years before
I’d had the amputation. When I was originally injured,
I could never rest my right leg on anything, because of the pain
I’d get. I had physio to try and get better and I wasn’t getting anywhere. My best friend would come and visit
and he’d have my daughter up on his shoulders. They’d be
running around all over the place and it broke my heart. In my head, I’m like, “It should be
me doing that. “I want to chase my daughter.
I want to annoy her “and steal something from her, and
make her chase me.” And when I made my decision to take
my leg off, that was in the forefront of my
mind. It was an obvious choice. I had my amputation and this is
where I am now. People look sort of sideways. They don’t want to make it obvious
that they’re looking at you. You can ask me if you want, or you can touch it if you want. I’m not ashamed and I’m not
afraid. In my school, I was the first
child to actually have a limb difference. When you’re a young child, you don’t really notice it. You don’t really know that you’ve
got these differences. And the older I got, the more I
realised, “Oh, I am different. “This is strange.” People would, not maybe say
something, but it was the look of shock
on their faces, like “He’s got an arm
off.” And then more and more people
would point it out, making me feel weird and secluded
from everybody. I used to get a little bit bullied,
especially during football. A lot of the kids would say,
“Well, you can’t be a goalie, “because you’ve only got one hand.” I generally just felt like a freak. And I know that’s a very strong word
to use but I was bullied out of my football
team. I think some kids would bully
me because they’d never seen someone
with a missing limb. They just felt, because I was
different, that they must make me feel like crap, to make themselves
feel better. I would hide my hand a lot
as a teenager, especially. Dating…very awkward. I was so scared of the shock, of what people would say
about my arm. It was always the build-up
in my head that made things worse and then actually, at the end of it,
I was like, “Oh, actually, “things are all right. I don’t know
why I panicked in the first place.” The leg was amputated a few
months after the accident. They tried saving it, they did their
best. I was in hospital for a year
and three or four months. And once I got home,
I was in a wheelchair. I didn’t like the terms
“disabled” and “stump” and “amputation” and all that. It was a hard time, I wasn’t the
nicest of people to be around. Depression, obviously. Everybody around you starts moving
on. That hits you hard. I was doing stupid
things. Fell out with people. You know, it was that bad. I felt that alone, that separated,
that angry and mad. It was like, “Well, that’s how I
WILL feel if I don’t accept it.” I always wanted to get out the
chair. I was very adamant, “I’m learning to
walk.” When I look in the mirror, it’s
quite difficult, admittedly. I train, obviously,
bodybuilding and fitness. Although, I know how
off-balance I am. I know how I’d like to look
and could look. And I know the goals, physically, I
could achieve if I wasn’t put in this situation. I’ve only recently got my leg, so I’m still getting used
to everything. Even the pain, it’s new. I know there’s a lot of unknowns
and uncertainty about prosthetics. I want to clear a few things
up and share my experiences. Being an amputee, going through
rehab and meeting other amputees
is really interesting. It’s important to talk about issues
that people probably wouldn’t
normally come into contact with. I would have had no idea
what it was like to be an amputee, or what it was like to think
like an amputee, before this. And I think it’s nice to talk about
that. Three, two, one. I got hit by a drunk driver
six years ago. And you know, since then, it’s been
quite a long time. But I’ve been on and off prosthetics
quite a lot. I’ve been injured since 2013, but I’ve only been an amputee for
six-ish months now. Is this the solution? Has it worked? Yeah, massively. It’s going to be hard work and I’ve got a daughter,
who is the fastest thing. She does not stop. So, you’ve got to keep up. I can keep up with her better
than I could before. For you, how do you cope when you’re
having a nightmare day? When you wake up and you’re having
one of those days, I’ll go, “Eugh, I don’t want to get out of
bed. “I don’t want to put my legs on.
“They’re going to be sore.” And, you know, this is six years
later. I’m still having to face that. But, the world isn’t
going to wait for you. Like, you’re saying you’ve got a
seven-year-old daughter. Yeah. Like, she doesn’t care.
She’s too young. And so, the world makes the choice
for you. Have you stubbed your toe yet? Your non-existent toe? No. Oh, wait. It’ll hurt. Don’t. For a split second, it hurts. Really? For a split second, it’s real. I was in hospital for eight weeks.
Yeah. I had horrendous phantom-limb pain. It was the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever been through in my life.
It was awful. I’d rather live with the phantom
pains than what I was getting before, because the phantoms, for me
at least, they come and go really quickly. There’s a few things that are just
pure entertainment. The whole world of leg-related
comedy. You know – “One foot in the grave.”
“Haven’t got a leg to stand on.” BOTH: “I’ve really put my foot in
it.” The best thing out of this whole
process was meeting someone like you, seeing
somebody do something that I may be worried I’m not going
be able to do. Whether I can do it or not, you’re
motivation for me now. You’ve sort of set a standard. Yeah, that’s going to
help me, without a doubt. Well, thanks for saying that. I’m going to want a family,
at some point. Is it even a sensible thing
for someone in my position to do? Yeah. And to hear, you know, the
fact that you’ve got a daughter and you can still keep up. You know, it’s really nice to hear
that. The way my prosthetics work is I
have a hard outer socket. Like this. If I take it off… ..and stand it up, I have a silicon
liner, which just peels down. I’m quite lucky, actually. I’m a through-knee, which means
I can actually bear weight through the end of my stump. That is my foot and socket. This is my liner. This is the soft bit between me and
the hard carbon fibre. Three joints in the knee that allow
it to completely freely move. A spring in the foot, which helps
power you forward. I always said, with a leg, I didn’t
want it to look real because I didn’t want it to try and
look what it wasn’t. This fits only my arm. So, I turn it on. HAND WHIRS It’s actually using the muscles in
my arm. So, how you would be doing
that is how I can close. And if I do that, it opens. These ribs here push the air… ..and then that vacuum holds
it onto your leg. So, my three assistive devices
would be full-sized prosthetics, these are these small prosthetics,
and a wheelchair. The tall legs are, for me, the
hardest ones to use, by far. It’s no small reason for me
using my smaller prosthetics, which are easier to balance
on, more than I use the taller ones. I just don’t feel confident enough
to go and do a lot of things on the taller prosthetics because I’m worried about falling
over and everyone staring. I don’t like people seeing me
vulnerable. I don’t feel disabled
when I’m in a wheelchair. But, ironically, I get treated
as if I’m disabled in every sense. I’ve had people coming up to me. Whoever’s pushing, they’ll speak to
them, “How’s he doing?” It made me feel very little. Very… Like I wasn’t there. I’ve had my change handed
to my sister, when I’m out shopping, instead
of handed to me because, apparently, someone in a wheelchair can’t deal
with their own money. I was carrying my bag today. I get up to get off the train
and someone picks it up for me. You can ask me and I might let
you, but I don’t need you to do it. The more awkward thing is that I’m
left-handed, so people shake with
their right. I would try to shake upside
down with my left arm. And people would be like, “That’s
really weird.” I’m a normal person. I just happen to be a bit different. I wouldn’t say there was necessarily
a turning point. It just slowly started taking
steps in the right way. I set myself goals. I have done a disabled category
in bodybuilding. I’m just getting
into sprinting now, with the goal of the Paralympics. A couple of years ago, I started
helping Open Bionics. I was already into futuristic stuff
and this is all 3D-printed. I guess it’s because I wanted
a bionic arm, but I didn’t have any way of
going about getting one, and they being expensive
back when I was a kid. I’ve been testing these arms
for a while now and I’m just fascinated by the
technology and I’m just one of those lucky
guys that gets to wear one of these on a daily basis. I started looking at prosthetics and doing a Masters in
Bioengineering at Imperial College. There’s a lot of work still to do
to bring a prosthetic limb to the point of replicating
a biological limb and I find that really interesting. As an added bonus, you get
to feel like you’re helping people. This is what I’ve been working
for for the past two, three years. The favourite part of my body
is my prosthetic. It is my body now. Having it has given me my life
back. I see me as the person
that I was before all this, but I also see me now and it makes
you think about what I’m capable of.

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