Mark Smith, 53, narrowly escaped death after a blood clot in his thigh went undiagnosed and forced the life-changing operation, with medical experts ruling that he would never get behind the wheel again.
But after Shoosmiths Serious Injury helped Mark secure a state-of-the art bionic leg and ankle, he is back on track to continue his 30-year career driving his 44-tonne articulated lorry across the UK.
It is believed that Mark, who lives in Dudley and works for long haul specialists JJX Logistics in Kingswinford, is one of only a handful of amputee HGV drivers in the country.
Mark said: “They told me I would never drive again; doctors, other lorry drivers, coach drivers. They said, ‘you’ll never do it, just accept it and move on’.
“But all I wanted to do was get back to work. That was my mindset.
“My father was in the army and he was a truck driver. My brothers and I were brought up with the attitude that if you get knocked down - you get back up again.”
Mark added: “Within five weeks of my operation I was on crutches and back in the cab. As soon as I sat in the driving seat - I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mark’s nightmare began in March 2014 when he first felt pins and needles in his toes, and the GP put it down to a sprained ankle. Over the next year he had visited the GP again several times to report the area feeling cold, a change in skin colour and pains in his ankle and shin -but no diagnosis was made.
By March 2015, the pain left Mark virtually unable to walk and one morning he noticed his toes had turned black and blue. His wife, who is a trained nurse, rushed him to the A&E Department at
Dudley’s Russell Hall Hospital where he was dealt the devastating news that not only would he need to have an above knee amputation, but that he was also was at risk of death.
After the operation Mark quickly tried to regain his independence. But the poorly fitted prothesis suppled made walking painful and unbearable and saw him constantly falling over. Mark said this led to some “dark days”.
It was then that he reached out to Shoosmiths’ clinical negligence specialist Sharon Banga, who launched an extensive investigation into the two GP practices involved.
Sharon’s investigations found that the condition that led to Mark’s amputation was stenosis and/or blockage of the left common femoral artery. From her extensive study of medical records and instruction of medical experts, she discovered If he had received an earlier diagnosis or referral, he could have had bypass surgery - which would have avoided amputation.
Once a liability admission was achieved, Sharon was able to secure a sizeable interim payment from the defendants while the legal case was ongoing, which kick-started Mark’s rehabilitation journey.
Shoosmiths instructed multiple expert witnesses from disciplines such as occupational therapy and prosthetics, to advise on Mark’s needs. They worked alongside a specialist rehabilitation company to organise physiotherapy, to make sure Mark had the greatest chance of independence.
Following a successful prosthetics trial, Mark was fitted with the Genium X3 MPK leg with Elan iC foot together with replacement sockets and maintenance
A final settlement was secured in late 2021 which will help with Mark’s ongoing rehabilitation, hydrotherapy, and occupational therapy which he will require for the rest of his life. In 10-15 years Mark’s bionic prosthesis will most likely need to be replaced.
Mark said: “There were some dark days, some days when I felt vulnerable and I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. It all happened so fast, and of course you grieve for your lost limb, you’re born with it.
“That’s when I reached out to Sharon at Shoosmiths. She really has helped me and my family better our lives. Life is great again.
“I’ve been able to go back to work part-time and do the job I love. I’m going to the gym three or four times a week. I have my life back.
Mark added: “You can’t replace your leg - but it’s damn close”
Shoosmiths’ Sharon Banga said: “Mark has been inspiring in his determination to carry on. He didn't give up after the amputation and he didn't let it stop him. And I think it's a testament to his resilience that he has managed to see himself through and see his family through as well.”
“His positive mindset and the new technology has assisted him in coming to terms with a situation where he has gone from a fully mobile, healthy person to losing his leg in a matter of hours. He was told that there was a chance that he might not make it.
Sharon added: “I think to have overcome all of those obstacles and challenges and ended up where he is today is great. And as a solicitor, I couldn't want anything more.”
Mark will work part-time for long haul specialists JJX Logistics where he will drive an automatic vehicle. There are of course still periods of time when he suffers adverse symptoms and health, but he now has more ability to work around these obstacles.
Director of JJX Logistics, John Donovan, who has worked with Mark for 15 years, said: “Mark is a crucial member of our team. He’s amazing. He never stops working. We all greatly admire him because he just doesn’t give up.
“People would have said ‘that’s me done’, but not Mark - he just carried on.”
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2023