A soldier told he would never walk again after being paralysed in a sniper attack has defied doctors by running – thanks to the UK’s first ‘bionic’ splints.
Lance Corporal Jon Le Galloudec, 33, was blasted in the spine on a night time mission in Iraq.
Doctors told him he was lucky to be alive but he was paralysed from the waist down and would never walk again.
But now, thanks to the UK’s first highly advanced bionic splints, he has defied all the odds to run – after just three weeks of having them.
L/cpl Galloudec said: ‘For the first time in seven years not only can I stand still – but I can run.
“It was an absolutely wonderful feeling to just give it a go and I haven’t stopped since. It is just great to be as normal as I can be.
‘I said to my wife I’ll have to sign myself up for a fun run, or something.
‘It’s fair to say I’m not going to be the next Mo Farah, but you never know. It is amazing.’
L/cpl Galloudec joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets in 1999, aged 19.
He was a month into his tour in the Al Aliyah district in 2007 when he was attacked during an arrest and detain mission.
The gunfire from a sniper narrowly missed his head before he was shot in the spine by a bullet that ‘felt like a sledgehammer.
Jon’s best friend Corporal Rodney Wilson, 30, heard him scream ‘man down’ and ran back 40 yards – under heavy fire – to retrieve him.
He dragged L/cpl Galloudec to within just a few metres of safety when he was fatally struck in the chest with a bullet.
He went down, dragging me with him,’ recalls L/cpl Galloude, from Bath, Somerset.
‘I whispered his name and when there was nothing from him I knew he was dead . From then on I was on my own.’
He was eventually retrieved by colleagues just seconds before he fell unconscious, convinced he was going to die.
He then endured a six-hour operation at the field hospital at Basra Air Station to repair his internal organs which had been ripped apart by the bullet.
Within days, he was flown to Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital, and then on to Stoke Mandeville where doctors said he would never walk again.
But he soon regained feeling in some of his upper leg muscles and, just eight weeks later, he defied them with a few very shaky steps out of the hospital, spurred on by the memory of his best friend who saved his life.
In 2010 L/cpl Galloudec was fitted with conventional splints, but the ill-fitting devices would cut and bruise his legs.
The constant pain meant he could only wear them for a few hours at a time.
Even when he did wear them, he had to constantly move around to stop himself toppling over – and was often confined to a wheelchair.
Then, this year Help For Heroes put him forward for the new prosthetics, called exo-skeleton orthotics.
The £5,000 futuristic fibreglass leg casts – funded by the charity – store energy from Jon’s working muscles in his upper legs to propel his lower legs forward when he steps.
They slide into his shoes and round his legs below the knee.
‘The first night I got them I wanted to wear them to bed, I didn’t want to take them off,’ said L/cpl Galloude, who is married to Elizabeth, 32.
‘The independence they have given me is amazing. Rodney Wilson gave his life so that I could live mine – now I have to live life for two people.’
L/cpl Galloude was funded by Help For Heroes so the charity can analyse his progress in a bid to convince the government to fund other paralysed patients.
Bryn Parry co-founder of Help for Heroes said: ‘If successful then it’s only right that the government funds this technology for others with a similar injury to Jon’s.’