Worst-injured Afghanistan soldier has 7-hour op in bid to help him walk again

The most seriously injured British soldier to survive an attack in Afghanistan is hoping an operation on his spine will help him achieve his dream of walking again.

Paratrooper Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson suffered around 40 different injuries, including brain damage and losing both his legs, when his Land Rover was blown up in 2006.

His fight, first to survive and then regain his life, has inspired remarkable scenes, including when 30,000 people came out to watch him carry the Olympic Torch through his home town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 2012.

A sandwich board in Doncaster with a tribute message to Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 27, the most seriously wounded soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan, who carried the Olympic Flame through his home town of Doncaster
A sandwich board in Doncaster with a tribute message to L/Bdr Parkinson (Dave Higgens/PA)

Now, L/Bdr Parkinson has undergone a seven-hour operation, filmed by the BBC's Inside Out programme, to help straighten his spine in a bid to improve his chances of walking again.

The curve in his back has not only affected his walking but, for the first time in years, he has been complaining to his parents about being in pain, his family said.

Eight years ago the soldier had an operation to install screws and two rods in his back.

But his spine has curved below these rods and this latest operation involved the surgeons putting new screws in at the bottom of his back and then adding length to the original rods.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, the most seriously injured British soldier to survive an attack in Afghanistan, on route to surgery which he is hoping will help him achieve his dream of walking again
L/Bdr Parkinson on his way to surgery (BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire/PA)

After the operation, one of the surgeons, Alex Baker, told Inside Out: "So far it's looking pretty good. It's looking fairly well balanced. We're very happy with the X-rays and how it all looks."

L/Bdr Parkinson's mother Diane Dernie told the programme that the operation was an important step.

She said: "This operation means everything to Ben. There are good medical reasons why it needs to happen but for Ben it's all about the walking."

Speaking as her son is taken into theatre, she said: "I'm more nervous than he is, he's cool as a cucumber. We're in bits. I think no matter how old your kids are you never think this is what you are going to be doing."

Before the surgery, L/Bdr Parkinson said: "I am excited, it's been over 10 years that I have been waiting for it.

The Princess Royal talks to Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson in 2013
The Princess Royal talks to Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson in 2013 (John Stillwell/PA)

"My walking is going a lot, lot better but I need this operation for it to progress. I am confident this operation will make a big difference. It will definitely make a difference in some way."

Speaking a few days after the operation, during a physiotherapy session, L/Bdr Parkinson said: "I'm very happy, it's slightly painful but I'm not that bad. It's very, very good."

His stepfather Andy Dernie said: "There are probably other operations that this will lead on to, but one at a time. The next ones won't be as scary, but this one was a scary one.

"We're glad it's over and we're fairly sure that it's an absolute 100% success."

:: The BBC Inside Out programme featuring L/Bdr Parkinson's operation will be shown in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire on Monday at 7.30pm on BBC One. The programme will also be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days

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