At the age of 9, Alan Gifford lost both his hands after contracting a rare infection. Alan was born with a complex heart condition, and he contracted an infection following open heart surgery. Unfortunately he had to undergo amputation of both hands as a result of the infection. He then spent 6 months in hospital recovering from his infection and the amputation.
In June 2015, Alan’s friends and family began a campaign to raise money for a pair of custom made bionic hands for Alan. It was his dream to be able to ride a bike and hold a fork, things we do without even thinking about, on a daily basis.
This month Alan received his first bionic hand. Alan had been working with a prosthetics company, Touch Bionics, in Scotland on a hand that allows him to do the things he has always dreamed of.
Touch Bionics are a provider of world leading prosthetic technologies, and work to achieve the best possible outcomes for people with upper limb deficiencies. Touch Bionics products include the myoelectric prosthetic hand and prosthetic finger solutions, and they have been working closely with Alan to help him achieve new found confidence, function and a degree of independence.
Alan’s hand has cost £28,000 but the value to him is immeasurable.
Now Alan’s family are continuing to raise money to fund a second hand, so that Alan can have even more independence.
What causes amputation?
Upper limb amputation can happen for a number of reasons. In Alan’s case, he contracted an infection, and unfortunately the effects of this could not be reversed so that his hands could be saved?
More commonly, both in the press and in public, we see amputation claims involving lower limb amputations. Quite often these can be associated with diabetic foot problems that untreated, can escalate into more serious problems.
However, just last year I wrote about the case of Hermione Rose, who suffered with meningococcal septicaemia, and lost both arms and legs as a result of the infection.
Like Alan, Hermione has received a prosthesis, and has been learning to use her new prosthetic arm. Perhaps upper limb amputations are more common than we think, but just are not publicised enough?
Whatever the cause of the upper limb amputation, if it was caused by medical negligence or a negligent traumatic injury, it might be possible to recover compensation. As part of that process it is important that the issue of a prosthesis is carefully investigated.
Unfortunately quite often the most advanced prostheses involving electronic components and made to measure fittings, are not available via the NHS, and have to be purchased privately. The cost of the prosthesis can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. This is not a cost that can easily be met by an average amputee and their family, resulting in fundraising events as we have seen with Alan Gifford.
Some people are concerned about advancing a claim for negligence. It is understood that compensation is not going to put the individual back in the position they were in before the negligence and amputation occurred. But consider the bigger picture. What will their care needs be? How will these be met? How will they access private therapy and occupational health services? What kind of prosthesis will be offered on the NHS?
Where possible we will ensure that these costs are recovered as part of the claim.