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Jon White was injured by an IED 3 ½ years ago while serving as a Captain with 40 Commando Royal Marines on Op HERRICK in Afghanistan, and as a consequence lost both legs above the knee and his right arm at his elbow. But he has a high level of skill and physical fitness which allows him to be a full time prosthetics user, and he hasn’t used a wheelchair since June 2011. This gives him great freedom, allowing him to work in a variety of environments, play a very interactive role in raising his son George (born in November 2012) and generally relieve a lot of pressure from his wife Becky. This year he aims to launch a project management consultancy in building projects, and he has proven his skill by project managing the construction of his own home which featured in Channel 4’s‘Grand Designs’ in September last year.
His first prosthetic treatment was provided by the Defence Medical Recovery Centre Headley Court, but the level of his injuries and disability, combined with the lack of UK-based expertise at the time necessitated MOD-funded lower limb treatment by Hanger, a company based in Oklahoma, USA. The 3 week programme was a total success, but his body shape and weight have changed so much over the past 2 years that he now requires new sockets and replacement prosthetic limbs – legs and an activities arm. Sadly the equipment and treatment required are not yet available in the UK.
On 31 October 2013 the Trustees of RMCTF agreed to a grant of £97,500, to allow Jon to travel to Hanger for his treatment in November 2013 (Mark Ormrod will followed him in January). He will be in the US for a month, having his new equipment fitted and ensuring that it works perfectly, guaranteeing him at least 5 years of free movement, and the maximum chance to live his life as fully as possible – not least being able to take George into a swimming pool since the prosthetic legs he will have fitted are waterproof.
Jon sent us updates whilst receiving the treatment in the USA:
I am relaxing after a great week! I departed London Heathrow courtesy of The Fisher House Foundation and United Airlines on Friday 15 November heading for Oklahoma City via Dulles. Now Oklahoma City isn't the most exciting spot to visit in the USA or the world for that matter, unless, you are a multiple limb amputee. In my case, as a triple amputee, it is an extremely exciting place to visit. The purpose of my visit is to receive a new set of legs, an upgrade if you will. The legs I am receiving are not even available in the UK until Q2 of next year but the team at The Hanger Clinic in OKC have been fitting these legs for six months and having been involved in the clinical trials of them for the last eighteen months, this is a result of them being the most advanced clinic in the world, so manufacturers actively approach them for trials and testing. The legs are the Otto Bock X3 Knees, developed at the behest of the US Government to assist their wounded veterans. These knees are computerised and programmed for the individual, the computer uses five sensors working at 100 cycles per second to decide how quickly and how far the knee should bend. These sensors are measuring a hold raft of inputs such as, knee angle and where your weight is in relation to the foot, so there is skill and experience needed to set these up, you can't just bolt them on, dial in a few numbers and go. This is why I am so grateful to the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund for making this treatment available to me.
It's Sat 23 November now and I am having a rest day. My glutes and thighs are aching, the stair climbing function of these legs is brilliant but requires practice, lots of it! They were fitted to my old sockets on Tuesday so I could start the practice whilst my new sockets were being made. The new sockets were fitted on Thursday, less than four days into the treatment and they are great. So what's next? Well the next two weeks will be spent training, practicing and letting the prosthetics tweak and perfect my set up ensuring I can maximise the potential of the knee, socket and of me.
And now back in the UK, Jon shares how it feels to start 2014 after his treatment:
t's a New Year, the first New Year I have experienced as a civilian in 11 years and I'm starting it with new legs, not even a month old. With the weather in the last month it's lucky these new legs are waterproof. My work life and personal life involve me being outside a lot, in the past I had to be warey of the weather. Not any more. The new legs are also incredibly stable, a colleague commented the other day that I was 'statue like', helpful when you are stood for an hour delivering presentations, not only do I look and feel more confident, the stress on the base of my spine is greatly reduced - relieving pain. I am still mastering these new legs, it will take time but the improvement is constant. The result of this treatment - paid for by the RMCTF and C Group is that I am starting this New Year in my new legs ready to make my new careers a success. January is busy and the rest of the year is building, I can focus on growing this new life now instead of worrying about my legs. I thank the RMCTF and The C Group for all their support.