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Hi, by way of introduction, my name is Pete Appleby. I’m a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force and have spent the majority of my professional life as a helicopter crewman. Currently on a ground appointment I have the tremendous privilege of being a crewman on the 1942 built C-47 Dakota flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. I enjoy skiing and sailing but 3 years ago at the age of 42, I had bi-lateral THR’s; these are custom stems and are the large diameter metal-on-metal style joints.

August 2008

I enjoyed a hard days sailing but that evening during the 500-yard walk to dinner I had to stop for a rest, and the pain during dinner meant I could not sit still – I knew it was time to see the Doc again. From earlier consultations I knew what was coming; but when the Doc explained what the problem was, and more importantly that the solution was ahip replacement, I was shocked.

The way I saw it was that I had 2 options; new hips now, or carry on in pain, knowing that this was not going to get better and at a subsequent review the solution would be the same – new hips. It’s a massive thing to come to terms with – but 2 weeks later I had made a decision, the dates for the two operations were set and I had a myriad of questions.

What concerned me most was not the operation, nor the recovery from it, but my quality of life afterwards – would I be able to keep my job? And if was, would I be allowed to continue to fly? Were my sailing and skiing days over? I felt I should be able to do all these things – After all, why shouldn’t I? I was only 42.

As a result of all these questions I started to become what I now know as ‘an informed patient.’ Thanks to Google I knew there were all sorts of hips that I could have had, but thanks to the wisdom of my surgeon I knew the Custom Stem Metal-on-Metal THR was the right combination for me. Once my surgeon had told me my new hips were coming from Symbios, they became real and I wanted to know what they looked like (for real – not a picture on a web site) how smooth is the movement? How much do they weigh? How big is it? – I wanted to play with one: I felt I should be ‘allowed’ to this, after all, I was to play host to these, so I wanted to know every thing about them.

I met with the MD of Symbios UK, Mr Justin Quick and by the end of our meeting my questions had been answered; I understood how my custom stem was going to be made and why it was the best option for me. What followed was an unexpected opportunity – an offer to visit the Symbios factory in Switzerland, to see the final stages of planning and to watch my hips get made!

December 2008

I was back on the ward with a new right hip; I now had one leg longer than the other and although I wouldn’t get to wear it for a few days I was balanced up by a 1970’s style disco boot! The day after my op I went for a walk – once around my bed. Feb 2009, just 7 weeks after my right hip, my left hip was ‘done.’ My legs were once again the same length and I’d said goodbye to my disco boot.

In the days and weeks that followed I had tremendous support from both my family and the RAF. Daily physio for almost 3 months then a 3-week residential rehab placement at the Defence Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey put me on the right road to full fitness.

January 2009

Just less than 1 year post the 2nd op, and I took a 1 weeks skiing holiday in Val D’Isere – just to see how things were ahead of the 2 week family ski holiday to Canada I had planned for March the same year. It went like a dream and although my off-piste antics and racing days are now behind me, I have since enjoyed several weeks of skiing with my family and have instructed a group of novice skiers with the RAF in Germany.

A board of Medical Officers have cleared me to return to flying duties; as much as it is a privilege and honour to fly with the BBMF I hope my next job will see me return to the front line. Its now summer 2011 and having just returned from 2 weeks in Egypt I have tried and enjoyed Scuba diving, immeasurably improved my windsurfing skills and proved that with the sailing I can still capsize with the best of them!