The doctors think I got the bug from scraping my shins outside. It kills you if you don’t catch it, and the only remedy, unfortunately, is amputation.
Army veteran Philip Bailey almost died when he contracted a rare flesh-eating bug at the age of 67.
“I’d always been very healthy, but one day something suddenly felt very wrong. I began to feel lethargic and started flopping around all over the place. A friend saw that I needed to go to A&E, and by the time I got to the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham, I was in and out of consciousness. I’d dropped off a cliff edge! “I don’t remember anything after that, but I came very close to dying.
He survived, but only after losing both his legs above the knee. He was told he would probably never walk again, and if he did manage to use prosthetics, he would be exhausted after just a few steps. What Philip achieved over the next few years with the help of his expert medical team, some very clever microprocessor controlled knees, and support from Blesma amongst others, has been nothing short of remarkable.
“Learning to walk again was massively strenuous,” says Philip. “I would quickly start to sweat, and there was a constant balance issue. It took me the best part of nine months in that first year to learn to regain my balance. I was just like a toddler, starting from scratch. But I managed to get onto stubbies, and progressed to full-length rigid legs – which killed my back! “
At the time, the staff suggested I should go into the Limb Centre for rehab one day a week, but I decided to go in for three. I really pushed the pace! And at the same time, I started getting fit using my wheelchair. I eventually built up to doing a marathon – 26 miles around the local villages where I live. It took me eight hours and I was knackered by the end of it! I’m never doing it again, but I proved a point. “
The 72-yearold double amputee, who has always been an outdoor enthusiast, can now walk a couple of miles without any problems, and has even taking up some of his old passions, like sailing, again.
"I always liked the varied, outdoor lifestyle – the jungles, the desert, the mountains. I was attached to the Italian Army for a while and did a lot of mountain training. I became a mountain leader, and a ski and sailing instructor. And when I retired, I was always outdoors – gardening, rock climbing, skiing, sailing, hiking. I like adrenaline!
So last year, when a couple of friends asked if I’d like to go out with them on a 37ft yacht for three weeks, I (almost!) jumped at the chance. I grabbed my passport and met them in Dover. We were soon off the coast of Normandy, sailing along canals in France. I was in my element again! I’m planning to do lots more sailing, and I’d like to take part in the Blesma ski trip, too. I switch between my chair and legs at home, so I’m well adapted, and I’ve applied the military attitude to getting on with things."