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Plane crash victim's pioneering op

PUBLISHED: 11:45 11 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

A PLANE crash victim who has undergone a year's worth of intensive medical treatment to correct his injuries has now had pioneering surgery in a last-ditch attempt to save his leg.

A PLANE crash victim who has undergone a year's worth of intensive medical treatment to correct his injuries has now had pioneering surgery in a last-ditch attempt to save his leg.

Specialist doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge have spent eight hours rebuilding the right foot of Andrew Harding, who suffered horrific injuries in last year's air accident.

During the revolutionary operation, surgeons cut out the businessman's ankle and attached his heel bone to his shinbone at a right angle.

The 47-year-old, from Milden, near Hadleigh, will now have to wear a metal scaffold around his foot for the next year to hold his ligaments together and to encourage the foot to grow into the right shape.

Mr Harding said the surgery on his foot had so far been successful and he pledged to remain positive.

"I fully intend to be walking again. I am going to have this scaffold on my leg for the best part of a year, but I am going to walk and fly again and have a life again," he added.

"I've had my ankle taken away completely. They have fixed my heel bone to my shinbone so the ankle is gone completely and it's two inches shorter than the other leg.

"I'm on a high dosage of antibiotics and am due to go back to have the shin bone cut in half to extend the leg over the next few months."

Mr Harding, a director of Ipswich-based Deben Holdings - which has property interests including the Golden Lion Hotel and Church's café bar in Ipswich - almost died after his stunt plane crashed in an airfield near Johannesburg, in South Africa, on January 23 last year.

The businessman was undertaking a mid-air manoeuvre when the lightweight biplane failed to recover from a spin. Mr Harding shattered his back in three places and suffered extensive injuries to his face, legs and internal organs in the crash.

He regained consciousness after six weeks in hospital and has since undergone numerous operations to rebuild his limbs.

The father-of-two spent two weeks in Addenbrooke's Hospital after his latest operation. In four weeks he is due to have his shinbone cut again to make it level with his left leg and also have his nose rebuilt.

Despite endless hospital visits, Mr Harding said he felt the most positive he has been since the accident.

"The most positive thing happened to me yesterday. While I was in hospital, a friend of mine took my car away to a specialist who had it converted so it can work on a hand throttle, which means I can drive my car again, and this is fantastic," he said.

"I had a drive in it yesterday and it was great as it's the first positive thing that has happened to me in the past year. It's like giving me my freedom back again and I'm not as housebound, which is fantastic."


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