A teenage amputee sailor is back on the water in Portsmouth today after becoming one of the first non-military people in the UK to be fitted with a waterproof bionic leg.
Laurence Greenough, 18, lost his leg in a sailing accident at sea at the age of 10 when a routine capsize drill and an incident with a safety boat in Plymouth Harbour went wrong.
Today he has gone to sea from Portsmouth Harbour to test his new bionic leg, which is one of the world’s most advanced prosthetics.
He said: ‘The first thing I planned to do was to take it sailing.
‘It also has a walk to run feature and bespoke running mode. I had not run since 2006 and it was the most exciting thing to be able to do it again.
‘It makes walking feel so natural - I trust it and don’t have to use so much energy. I feel safe and can just relax and let the leg do all the work.’
Laurence’s injuries resulted in an above-the-knee amputation of his left leg.
But two months after the accident he was back on the water, using crutches to get around because exposing a normal prosthesis to seawater would cause it to corrode.
He eventually stopped sailing as the difficulties of doing so without a prosthetic leg became apparent.
After three years on crutches he was referred to Richard Nieveen of ProActive Prosthetics and fitted with a computer-controlled prosthetic ‘C-Leg’ which provided him with improved mobility, but could not be worn on deck due to the risk of water damage.
But his ability to get back on the water has been restored with the help of the world’s most advanced bionic leg developed by mobility experts Ottobock.
The Genium X3, originally designed for military personnel, is the only completely waterproof microprocessor prosthetic knee and has a bluetooth remote control to switch between sailing, walking, jogging and cycling modes.
Mr Greenough, who received the Raymarine Young Sailor of the Year award in 2007, following in the footsteps of Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie and yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur, tested his new leg for the first time today when he went sailing on a 37ft cruiser racing yacht from Portsmouth Harbour with a team from ProActive Prosthetics.
Mr Nieveen said: ‘The set-up and fitting of Laurence’s new leg is tailored to get him back doing all of the things he enjoyed before his accident.
‘We’ve also programmed a special sailing mode in the knee to allow him to move around the boat with ease, and of course he’ll be safe in the knowledge that he can get it wet without any problem.’