NHS 70 stories - Bristol Centre for Enablement helps get John back on his bike

John Gough has been benefiting from NHS prosthetic services for almost 30 years - and has experienced the advances that have been made in the technology available over those decades.

He was 25 years old when he lost his leg after contracting sepsis/toxic shock syndrome following a motorbike accident. 

John Gough out on his bike after his new prosthetic limb made it possible to ride again for the first time in 30 years

But now a high-tech prosthetic limb with a computerised knee means he has been given a new lease of life and has been able to take up cycling again.

John’s initial prosthetics appointments were at the Oxford Limb Centre.

“I remember my first leg was absolutely horrid it looked like something out of the crimea and I hated it,” he said.

“It was what they called a pylon, a metal block on some metal legs. But that didn’t stop me. “The first time I was able to bring it home I walked around my local time of Wootton Bassett until I had blisters on my stump.

“With that first limb I kept breaking the knees. Goodness knows how many knees I got through. I was quite a big chap and I was trying to keep active and fit and I don’t think the leg was quite up to it.”

John’s next leg was wooden with a metal joint, which was better able to support his weight and mobility needs.

He then moved onto a MAUCH limb as an early adopter. By this time John had moved to Warminster and his care came under the team at Southmead Hospital.

“The MAUCH limb was a lot stronger and I could walk better,” he said.

“It gave some resistance, which meant I was less likely to fall. I could put my weight through it on a slightly bent knee. I could see the progression even then.”

While the MAUCH limb was an improvement, John still found it difficult to do what he wanted to but two years ago he was given the option to try a limb with a computer controlled microprocessor knee

(MPK) as part of a trial being carried out through the NHS.

By this time the north Bristol service had moved to the Bristol Centre for Enablement at Cribbs Causeway, where it is based alongside Communication Aids, Wheelchair Services and Electronic Assistive Technology.

John fit the criteria for the trial as someone who was currently walking on a moveable knee.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

“It’s constantly measuring the ground and knows how much weight I’m putting through my foot and what speed I’m attempting to walk at and adjusts itself accordingly. I can walk smoothly from paved areas to cobbles and onto grass.

“And I can walk down stairs properly, which is something I hadn’t been able to do for such a long time.

"The most amazing thing was for the first time in 30 years I was able to look up and around me instead of constantly walking with my eyes permanently on the floor looking at where my foot was going."

John had been a regular at the gym prior to receiving his new leg, but has now moved onto doing spin classes and body pump and exercises at least 5 times a week and is not letting anything holding him back.

“I have been doing spin for about a year and even did a 3 hour charity spinathon a couple of months back for the Sepsis Trust,” John said.

“I hadn’t been confident standing up on the bike at spin but after some one-to-one training with the instructor I worked out I could cycle standing up with this MPK knee and I would not have been able to do that with any other leg.

“Being able to do spin for three hours and standing up made me think that maybe I could ride a real bike without stabilisers.

“A few weeks ago I tried cycling - something I had wanted to do since losing my leg 30 years ago – and it went so well I bought myself a road bike.

“Now I want to do a 20-mile sponsored walk and I never would have been able to do that without the NHS.”