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Former Trust technician celebrates 50 years’ service from Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre

Photo of Steve Whalley holding a placard which reads LewisFormer Lancashire Teaching Hospitals technician Steve Whalley recently celebrated an extraordinary milestone - 50 years of an unwavering relationship with the Trust, and what is now the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre, following a fateful motorbike accident.

Back in October 1973, Steve lost his right leg following a life-changing crash, and following surgery at Preston Royal Infirmary, he was fitted with an aluminium prosthetic limb, which he wore out in public for the first time for his 18th birthday, on March 15, 1974.

Within eight months he was back at work with Ribble Motors, resuming his apprenticeship as a vehicle builder, before redundancy in 1989 led him into a fulfilling career in Occupational Therapy as a Cardiac and Orthopaedic technician at the Royal Preston Hospital.

Steve, now 68, admits he wouldn’t be here, or have been able to have achieved any of the remarkable successes in his career, but for the care he has received from the NHS.

He still counts his blessings, as he wasn’t expected to make it through the night after his accident. He said: “I wouldn’t be here today, retired with two kids and a house, without the NHS, and the services the Trust provides.

“Your average prosthetic leg costs around £3/4,000, and I can’t count how many I’ve had over the years… I wouldn’t have been able to afford that sort of cost every time I needed a new limb, and if I hadn’t had a prosthetic limb, I wouldn’t have been able to work and achieve what I have in my life.”

After his accident, he wasn’t expected to pull through, as he explained: “The ward sister had filled out a death certificate and later confessed to me that I wasn’t expected to come back from my operation. She finished her shift while I was having the surgery and didn’t want her first job the morning after to be filling in a death certificate, so she made it out and put in the drawer for the doctor to sign.

“The morning after she asked the doctor to sign it, and he said ‘Why? He made it!’ She pulled the curtain back and I there I was!”

The orthopaedic surgeon who performed Steve’s life-changing surgery was Robert Symon Garden, whose son Graeme – who qualified in medicine at King’s College London – became well known for writing and performing in the television sitcom The Goodies, as the voice of Bananaman.

Little did Steve know at the time of the accident, he would go on to work in the NHS 15 years later, when a vacancy came up in Occupational Therapy at Royal Preston Hospital, and he was taken on as a Cardiac and Orthopaedic Technician.

The department was next to the Limb Centre at RPH, which proved handy for Steve’s ongoing repairs. He said: “There weren’t many people with prosthetics then. When I was discharged, if my leg hurt, I had to take aspirin. It was aluminium, with a spring, and the only person they could look to emulate was Douglas Bader, a Second World War RAF pilot who crashed and lost both his legs in 1931.

“It regularly broke or I wore it out every six weeks or so. My department was next door, so I could just nip in and get it adjusted.”

Steve’s background in engineering helped in his new role, as he worked in orthopaedics, on adjustable braces and splints, amongst other things. He also ran the rehab workshop and was then cardiac technician in the cardiac room for ten years.

Steve added: “The engineering aspect of the job - a lot of what I was taught transferred itself. You could change people’s lives for the better, and that gives you job satisfaction.”

Before his role at the Trust, Steve also worked in motor sport and can claim to have patented a revolutionary pit board which is still used today in Formula 1.

His ability to innovate led to one creation that has been taken around the world by motor racing’s finest: “I was talking to a consultant here about motor racing. He was thinking of buying a race car and asked me to set a team up for him as I had some experience and contacts. We used to go all over the country, and one day he missed a pit board at Silverstone. I told him ‘I called you in’, but he couldn’t see it and he blew the engine up.

“So, I said I’ll make one you’ll never miss, and mine is still used in Formula 1 - it lets the light shine through the back, which makes it easier to see. It was a simple idea, but it’s accepted as one of the better models.”

Victoria Bateman, Prosthetic Professional Lead at the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre, has known Steve for the best part of four decades, and said: “Steve’s significant anniversary highlights a personal journey of resilience, and showcases the invaluable support provided by the NHS over the decades.”

Get in touch

Chorley and South Ribble Hospital

Preston Road



01257 261222

Royal Preston Hospital

Sharoe Green Lane




01772 716565

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