In December 2005, while on an adventure holiday in South Africa, keen rambler Keith Telford from Winchester (now aged 74) sustained a severe bone fracture to his right ankle resulting in detached shards of bone. The injury was so serious that when he arrived back in the UK doctors from his local hospital considered whether his leg would need to be amputated.
Knowing this wasn’t an option Keith sought help from specialist orthopaedic consultants at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH). The team at the RNOH assessed his leg and advised on suitable treatment. In early 2007 RNOH Consultant Surgeon Peter Calder performed a life changing operation and saved Keith’s leg by fitting a Ilizarov fixator – a device used to lengthen or reshape limb bones. Within 35 days his leg had grown 30mm back to its original length and after seven months the device was removed.
Despite experiencing intense pain with each footstep without the support of the fixator, Keith was determined to get back on his feet and return to full fitness. By the summer of 2008 his strength and balance had improved; bit-by-bit he was getting better and he successfully climbed the Yeavering Bell in Northumberland with his brother-in-law, Mike. In the New Year Keith wanted to tackle a more demanding climb in deep snow up Windy Gyle on the remote Scottish border.
His next challenge was to test whether he could walk for several days in a row. First he embarked on a four day hike during the spring in Cornwall and in the autumn he took on the ultimate UK challenge: climbing Ben Nevis in the North West highlands, all 4,400 feet of it. On preparation for the assent he found that the other members of the party, many thirty years his junior, were too strong for him to keep up with. He decided to take on the impressive 10 mile summit alone at his own pace and successfully completed it in just four hours, which, in his words, made him feel like he was “back in the game!”
Keith has made a remarkable recovery and says he ‘enjoys reasonable mobility’ by walking 10 miles every Sunday with his fellow ramblers and works out in the gym twice a week. Although he doesn’t have full movement in his ankle and is unable to run he continues to set his sights on more walking adventures including climbing Calder Idris in North Wales this year and plans to return to Iceland for a walking holiday next year.
Keith added: “I am forever grateful to Mr Calder and the great work carried out every day at the RNOH. He inspired me with great confidence to get to where I am today. I will continue supporting its Charity Appeal to help raise vital funds for additional facilities and equipment for the hospital. Without the care I received at the RNOH I wouldn’t be walking today and enjoying lots of adventures with my friends and family. I hope that other people my age will be encouraged to be more active and make the most of their retirement.”
A true inspiration and advocate for active ageing, Keith plans to again attend the 12th annual Buttercup Walk – the RNOH Charity Appeal flagship fundraising event – held at the Stanmore site on Sunday 8th June and is urging others to get involved for a fantastic cause.