Amazing ‘Captain Armless’ Alex becomes a UK first again
Alex Paterson is looking forward to a life free of discomfort after becoming the first person in the UK with an upper limb amputation to have ground breaking osseointegration surgery.
Alex, 57, of Hempsted in Gloucestershire, has had an implant inserted into the bone of his residual limb, the end of which now has an external attachment for him to fix his myo-electric prosthetic arm to. It means he no longer has to wear uncomfortable sockets and straps.
The surgery, performed at the Royal Free Hospital in London following a referral from Dorset Orthopaedic, was complete in under an hour and Alex, having spent just one day in hospital, went back to work the next day.
He said: “If pain post-surgery is measured from one to ten, then this procedure didn’t even make onto the scale. I’ve not taken a single painkiller for it, it’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Alex was just 19 when he elected to have his arm amputated above the elbow, two years after a motorcycle accident caused a catastrophic brachial plexus injury that left his arm irrevocably damaged.
He continued to live life to the full, retraining as an automotive engineer, starting up his own business, renovating the family home and continuing to ride his cherished motorcycle. But a dentists’ appointment opened up a new world of possibility, when his dentist had been to a conference about dental implants and found an osseointegration event next door.
Alex said: “He must have been thinking of me because he called me right away and said I should investigate, and here I am!”
Before this surgery, Alex — known as ‘Captain Armless’ to his three children and six grandchildren — had already undergone an innovative procedure to allow him to control his prosthetic arm with his mind, known as Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR). The surgery involves connecting nerves that were transmitting signals to the arm to other muscles in the chest.
Now, with osseointegration, he feels like he has the complete package.
He said: “I cannot stress how different life compared with my life before. There’s no discomfort, no pain. It’s like chalk and cheese. Using a socket and strap system, no matter how good that system is, is uncomfortable. You look at it when you wake in the morning and you think ‘do I have to?’ I think on average I was able to keep it on for maybe four hours at a time.
“Within four weeks of getting my arm attached to my implant, I’m able to wear it almost the entire day without discomfort. Other pain I have related to the accident has virtually gone. I’m able to be a fitter and healthier person, and my work ethic has improved hugely.
“This is the best I’ve felt in 40 years, and it’s not just down to this surgery. It’s down to the TMR surgery I’ve already had, to the care I’ve had from the team at NHS Bristol and in recent years it’s been thanks to a brilliant collaborative relationship with the whole team at Dorset Orthopaedic, in particular James Buckett, Adam Lewin and Chris Ball who helped create the new arm I have and the new life I have with it, and Moose Baxter and Matt Hughes. Everyone at Dorset has been absolutely incredible and I cannot thank them enough.”
James Buckett, Alex’s prosthetist at Dorset Orthopaedic’s clinic in Burton-upon-Trent, said: “Alex has been a patient of ours for some years and he’s a model example of what can be done with determination, dedication and hard work. Alex has given 100% to every rehab session he’s attended, and we had no doubt he’d achieve huge success with both the TMR and osseointegration surgery. We’re delighted for him.”