In June 2014, Tarek Shahin, 36, was caught up in an horrific bomb attack whilst serving as a police officer in his home country of Egypt. Over two years and numerous plastic surgery and orthopaedic procedures later, Tarek is making incredible progress.
“In June 2014 I was caught up in a bomb blast in my role as a police officer, which led to life-changing injuries.
I lost both of my hands, and although both my legs were hurt, my left leg was particularly badly injured. I was told that the only chance I had to save my leg was to be sent to the UK for treatment, which had an excellent reputation for care. With the help of government funding for treatment, I was flown to London.
I was initially taken to a different private hospital, but they said they that my injuries were too severe to be treated. I was told I probably need to have my left leg amputated too. That hospital had been like a five-star hotel inside, but that meant nothing if they couldn’t help me. Having already lost my arms, it just wasn’t an option. I wanted to explore every possibility.
50:50 chance of success
I was then referred to Mr Shehan Hettiaratchy at St Mary’s Hospital. Mr Hettiaratchy has worked in war zones, and he has looked after patients like me many times. My experience was completely different. I had the right people looking after me at the right time, and experienced doctors readily available to help me to recover.
I was told that I had a 50:50 chance of retaining the use of my left leg, and even then I may not be able to get it fully functioning. Being independent was so important and this was a hard time, but my wife was able to stay in hospital with me throughout my treatment, which really helped. Happily, the surgery was successful and Mr Hettiaratchy was able to save my leg.
“Losing my leg was not an option”
I was then referred to Mr Satyajit Naique, an orthopaedic consultant at Charing Cross Hospital, who I hoped would be able to get me walking again. The bomb blast and previous surgery had taken a 10cm piece of bone out of my leg which meant that my left leg was considerably shorter than my right. I needed leg lengthening after the broken bone had healed.
This involves inserting screws into my leg attached to a frame which is turned to encourage the bone to grow. Mr Naique wanted to make sure that I was mentally strong enough to go through the treatment before he continued to care for me. Thankfully he saw that I had a really positive attitude and that I was able to cope, so we continued with the treatment.
I still see Mr Naique regularly and I attend physiotherapy twice a week at Charing Cross Hospital. My physiotherapist is really working hard with me to help me to become as independent as possible. Now I can walk, use the stairs, shower, go to the bathroom alone and generally live more independently than I expected. Once the frame comes off my leg I will be able to move even more. I still need further surgery – I need to have a flap graft on my leg and to have work done on my right knee – but I have come a long way.
I want to thank the doctors at Imperial Private Healthcare for believing in me and listening to my wishes. They have given me hope again. I also want to acknowledge the Egyptian embassy medical office and the Egyptian ministry of interior who sponsored all my treatment and of course, my wife, Ana, who has supported me throughout my recovery. I couldn’t have done any of this without her.
If anyone else is in a similar position I would say make sure you find the right place for your treatment. Look for the real specialists. They make a real difference.”
Mr Naique added:
Although the wound in Tarek’s left leg was healing, the leg could only be saved if the underlying fracture healed and the infection was controlled.
He had large external cage attached to his leg but this was beginning to fall apart and press on his leg muscles. We applied a new frame and over the next year his fractured bone began to heal. The infection in the bone also was cured with surgery and antibiotics. We were able to remove the frame after around eighteen months, and carry out the leg lengthening surgery. Although he now has a new frame to support the strengthening of his ankle, we are really pleased with the progress he is making.