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Football supporting patient post-op recovery


  • Ankle fusion patient David the first to use new astro turf pitch for rehabilitation
  • He received his surgery at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre within a few weeks
  • Plymouth Argyle Community Trust has aspirations to support other patients recovering from surgery or who wish to lead a more active lifestyle

David Saunders, 66, from Plymouth has undergone successful ankle fusion surgery at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre – and he has arranged with Plymouth Argyle Community Trust that he and others like him can use the club’s state-of-the-art astro turf for their recovery.

A number of fractures when he was younger left David with problems in his feet and ankles. He lived in the US for 15 years (where he was an Internet marketing pioneer) and while there had three operations, including rebuilding one of his feet and tendon tightening.

Back home in Plymouth his right ankle started to cause him intense pain: “The level of agony varied, but I would be lucky to walk for more than 10 minutes without severe pain. Once it was so bad that my ankle swelled to the size of a tennis ball and I ended up in A&E where they put me in plaster.”

David spent some time having steroid injections in his ankle, escalating to directed steroid injections, but the relief was only temporary. Determined that more could be done, David visited his GP – “he could see the frustration and pain in my face.”

Within a few weeks David had two CT scans and was booked into Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre for his surgery. He said: “I had been there before so my expectations were high – I was not disappointed. You feel better the minute you walk through the door. It’s a very positive place and everyone is polite. Even the anaesthetic was great – no uncomfortable spinning before you go under, just instant oblivion!”

David added: “If someone wanted to know more about the standard of care at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre, I would ask them if they had five minutes to spare and then tell them how fabulous it is from beginning to end. Everything is brilliantly run and nothing is too much trouble. I have had surgery in the US and I can honestly say that the standard of care I have received at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre is streets ahead of that I received overseas.”

David lives near Pymouth Argyle Community Trust’s training ground, and asked Lewis Coombes, Manadon Facilities Manager if he could build up his walking on the astro turf and surrounding tarmac, which was agreed. David was pleased for the additional support: “It was great of them to do that. Pavements are hard going if you’ve had lower limb surgery and so astro turf is much more comfortable. It means that I can take longer walks which help my long term recovery. It’s been so good that with Argyle’s support I am setting up an over-50s club where people in similar positions to mine can use the astro turf too. Not only will it be good for us physically, but it will be a great opportunity to meet people and have a chat. I’m keen to set up a walking football club too.”

Plymouth Argyle Community Trust is known for working with a variety of groups across the region, including health. With provisions for weight loss, fitness and disability as well as ones that cater specifically for over 55’s via Walking Football teams and New Age Kurling groups, extending a hand to support those recovering from medical procedures seems a natural step for the organisation that is Plymouth Argyle’s official charity.

Lewis added: “We are delighted to support David’s rehabilitation journey by offering the use of our facility which will provide him with a safe, reliable platform for him to begin his exercise and strength work. Ultimately, our aspiration is to offer the use of our facility to individuals and groups that require exercise or rehabilitation support, and we would welcome opportunities for people to be referred to us through the NHS. We currently have a high spec artificial 3G pitch to offer whilst work is being done on our grass pitches, multi-use-games-arena (MUGA) and two storey pavilion which will offer social/meeting spaces that will also benefit exercise/rehab groups.”

Sue Farrell, Head of Nursing and Clinical Governance at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre commented: “We are very grateful to David for his kind comments, and we think his initiative with Plymouth Argyle Community Trust is fantastic. We encourage all our patients to do the exercises we set them and to try to get mobile and quickly and safely as possible, so we are very much in favour of this idea.”

Picture caption: Ankle fusion patient David Saunders with Lewis Coombes, Manadon Faciities Manager at Plymouth Argyle Community Trust

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