A COURAGEOUS Padiham man has become the first paraplegic amputee in the world to walk again.

Robert Field, 23, amazed medical staff as he took his first steps after being confined to a wheelchair for more than two years.

And his doctor said it was awe-inspiring watching Robert realise his dream of getting back onto his feet thanks to a special brace and artificial leg.

Robert, of Cornfield Grove, was left paralysed from the waist down after a one tonne bale of hay fell on him during a farming accident in Hapton.

He broke his back, fractured his jaw and severed a main artery, had his left leg amputated below the thigh and steel rods inserted into his back to help stabilise it.

But Robert has battled back against his disability, defying the odds to walk again using a leg brace device called a reciprocating gait orthosis.The brace is used to help paraplegics to walk, but has never before been used by anyone who has also had a leg amputated.

The £6,000 device works by supporting Robert’s hips and knee while he twists his upper body from side to side to generate momentum to move his legs.

Doctors however had feared the device would not work on an amputee because the weight difference between a real and artificial leg would affect the patient’s balance.

But on his first try at the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre in Preston, Robert was able to walk for 20 yards on his own.

He said: “I didn’t even know that I was going to get the leg, but when I tried it out I decided that I wanted to have a go at walking.

“I originally had a cosmetic leg but that just got in the way and had no real use as I couldn’t stand on it, so I talked to the doctors who said they would try and get me a leg that I could walk with.

“At first I had someone walking in front and behind and held onto parallel bars in case I fell.

“After a few minutes I was walking on my own and hardly holding onto the bars at all.

“I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to walking just using crutches to support me.

“It was a great feeling being able to walk. It felt good being tall again.”

Dr Fergus Jepson, consultant in rehabilitation medicine at the rehabilitation centre, said: “As far as me and my colleagues are aware, he is the first paraplegic amputee to have walked again.

“We have searched all our online journals and I have contacted colleagues throughout the country and no one had heard of it being possible.”

Dr Jepson said he had been worried the brace would not work.

He said: “I spoke to colleagues who said that it would not be feasible and tried to dissuade me because an artificial leg is a lot lighter than a real one.

“Using the brace is very tiring as all the power has to be generated from the upper body and Robert also has to be careful that he doesn’t get pressure sores as he doesn’t have any feeling in his legs.

“The most impressive thing about this was Robert, we were awe inspired with what he could do, it was a very touching moment.”

Gordon Steel, lead orthotist at the centre, said: “When Dr Jepson first mention the idea I have to admit that I tried to dissuade him.

“There was no history of it being done and I thought that it would be very costly for it not to work.

“The main problem we were up against was trying to get the weight balance right.

“Robert knew instinctively what to do before we even told him how to work it, he just started walking straight away.

“That kind of thing just doesn’t happen.

“He was zooming up and down the parallel bars, he performed outstandingly, it was an amazing sight.

“We are all delighted with what he has achieved, he has set a precedent for other paraplegic amputees.”