War hero failed by NHS remortgages house to raise £90k for new prosthetic legs
Afghanistan mine blast soldier Clive Smith is bravely facing a new battle against bureaucrats to get the care he deserves
He served his country in Afghanistan – where he lost both legs and almost paid the ultimate price.
Now soldier Clive Smith is bravely facing a new battle to get the care he deserves as a war hero.
And this time the enemy are not Taliban terrorists – but bureaucrats.
Sapper Clive, who stepped on a land mine in Helmand Province, has been in a wheelchair for 12 months, waiting for new prosthetic limbs.
Now, desperate to walk again, he has remortgaged his house to raise £90,000 so he can go to Australia for pioneering bionic limb surgery.
He says he has been left with no choice because the NHS and the Ministry of Defence have betrayed him, despite pledges that injured veterans would get the best possible care.
Clive, the face of the Poppy fund-raising appeal in 2012, told the Sunday People: “I’ve put my life on the line for my country and I feel let down that I am now having to put my home on the line to get the best treatment.
“I’ve finally lost my patience with the NHS.
“They are not looking after veterans. I’m stuck in a wheelchair with my life on hold and it’s not fair.
“I want to be out and about but I can’t because I’ve no legs to wear.”
Clive lost his legs above the knee while leading a 10-man patrol from 33 Engineer Regiment to find buried bombs in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand in October 2010.
He recalled: “I stood on a device that was about 12 kilos. Not enough to kill, but plenty of kick to maim.
“I remember feeling heat and seeing a blinding flash. They are not easy to spot, they are hidden just below the surface of a track.
“The next thing I recall is lying in a crater and calling out to ask who had been injured. Calls came back asking if I was OK and I realized it was me who’d been hit.
“I was in shock and not taking it in. Then I started feeling a sharp pain. I looked downwards and there was nothing left of my legs below the knee.
“I started treating myself while the other guys made sure they could come to my aid and that there were no other devices nearby.
“I was bleeding profusely from several arteries but I managed to stem the flow using tourniquets and started injecting myself with morphine.
“Then the other guys were there helping me and within 25 minutes a helicopter arrived from Camp Bastion. By the time they stopped my bleeding I’d gone through 14 pints of blood.”
Below: Wolves fan Clive visits his heroes as part of 2012 poppy appeal
After his horrific experience, the 30-year-old faced a struggle to walk again and rebuild his life with the help of prosthetic legs supplied by the NHS.
But due to poor fitting, he suffered agonising chafing and blistering and was unable to wear his new legs.
He had to have plastic surgery to repair skin on his stumps damaged by the rubbing. And for the last 12 months he has been virtually housebound while waiting for the NHS to fit new casts.
He has taken part in the grueling Invictus Games for disabled servicemen and met Prince Harry this year at a St Paul’s Cathedral service to honour bomb disposal heroes.
But Clive, of Cannock, Staffs, has now given up hope of help in the UK.
In Australia he will benefit from a new technique known as osseointegration which gives amputees the sensation of walking naturally.
It involves fitting the surface of a synthetic implant so it is in direct contact with living bone.
A titanium rod is implanted in the bone and protrudes through an opening in the stump. A robotic leg is then attached.
It ensures a perfect fit, with greater stability and control.
The British government has promised trials of the technique next year. But with a limit of 20 patients and 250 veterans with leg amputations, there are no guarantees that Clive will be chosen to take part.
Clive’s girlfriend Jen Price said: “We are so angry at the poor care for veterans generally that we set up a petition to the Government.
“I’m absolutely livid. Clive doesn’t want anything more than to live a normal life. He was serving Queen and country and all he asks in return is to be able to walk again.”
The surgeon who will perform Clive’s surgery is a refugee who fled Iraq after he was ordered to cut off the ears of draft dodgers by dictator Saddam Hussein ’s brutal regime.
Prosthetics expert Dr Munjed Al Muderis, 42, now based in Sydney, feels he owes a debt to men like Clive who fought to rid the world of tyrants.
Dr Al Muderis said: “These young British soldiers were sent to help Iraq and Afghanistan stand on their own two feet and were met with terrorism.
“I feel ashamed of that. The very least I can do is say sorry by helping them get their mobility back.”
He said of the osseointegration technique: “This is the future for amputees.”
Armed forces charity Help for Heroes is giving Clive and Jen £9,000 to help cover their expenses in Australia.
The NHS said it was “disappointed” to hear of Clive’s experience.
A spokesman added: “Providing excellent care for war veterans is a priority.”