I find myself in awe of other Blesma Members. There’s so much humour and banter, and I am still learning so much from others. I’m inspired listening to other people’s stories, and I’ve improved my public speaking skills through initiatives like the Blesma Community Programme
Steve McNeice, 57, served in the Territorial Army and was living a regular life as an accountant when he was struck by a life-threatening bacterial infection in 2003.
I grew up in Moss Side and left school at 16. I got a job as a trainee accountant at the Co-op and joined the TA at 25 for some adventure. It was the mid-eighties, so we weren’t really called on in a military sense, but I loved it.
Work commitments forced me to work across the South East and Germany. But in 2003 I was at an exclusive event in France and ate a sandwich that had a bug on it called Group A Streptococcal. It mutated in my stomach and attacked me through my bloodstream, and so I started to die from the extremities.
I was in hospital for 17 months. I lost both legs above the knee as well as the muscles in my right arm. I lost my fingertips and a little finger. I’m deaf in my left ear and have only 30 per cent hearing in my right. My lung capacity is significantly reduced after they filled with blood in an operation.
I’m a ‘glass half full’ person, so had a positive attitude from day one. I had been a triathlete and had run the London marathon three times, so I was physically fit and mentally strong.
At hospital, they didn’t think I would walk again and said I should get used to being in a wheelchair. But my competitive streak came out and I treated rehab like a triathlon; breaking down individual functions so I could control each one and exploit it to the max.
In 2005 I was the first double above-knee amputee to get two C-legs through the NHS, and in 2012 the first NHS patient to benefit from two Geniums. I generally walk unaided, although I still have mishaps and falls, but it’s a privilege to be up and about. I don’t want to walk huge distances as it’s about doing little and often to maintain my mobility and independence.
I’ve been privileged to be a National Limb Loss Patient Representative since 2005, representing patients at NHS England, Health Education England and the Department of Health. I try to take our collective patient experiences and use them to help improve services nationally and locally. I also help run the Westminster Cross-Party Limb Loss Group, and I am the Sutton and Merton Branch Ambassador.
I desperately ‘try’ to play golf and I swim regularly. I enjoy photography, drawing and painting. I find them all mentally therapeutic. When I’m drawing, I’m in the moment and I forget about everything else. I believe that life is what you make it and the prize is worth the effort.