South Shields veteran who became the UK's first to get a bionic limb marks 10th anniversary of losing his arm with test of endurance
Andrew Garthwaite, of High Trees, South Shields was only 22-years-old when he lost his right arm and almost his life when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2010.
Two years later, in 2012 he became the first British veteran to be fitted with a bionic limb, after travelling to Austria to undergo treatment and have a robotic limb wired up to his nervous system.
Now the dad-of-two is preparing to mark the anniversary of the attack by taking part in one of the UK’s toughest endurance events, the Cateran Yomp 2020.
Andrew will trek the 54 miles of Perthshire’s historic Cateran Trail in 24 hours on the weekend of June 6-7, to raise funds for the ABF Soldier’s Charity.
The charity which has supported thousands of veterans, serving soldiers and their families, helped him to rebuild his life after losing his arm.
“My life changed completely when I was blown up. I thought everything was over. Due to my injuries, I could no longer ride my motorbike or drive a car and I was medically discharged from the Army, said Andrew, now 36.
“With the incredible support of The Soldiers’ Charity, I’ve successfully rebuilt my life. I wanted to mark the anniversary by giving something back to them.”
In the years after he left the Army, Andrew married his girlfriend Kailey and went on to have two children.
The Soldier’s Charity funded a specially-adapted wet room in Andrew’s home, as well as an iPad to help him prepare a CV and find a job.
After he began working for a property management company they stepped in with a £3,000 grant to cover the costs of adaptations to his car.
With his bionic arm he was even able to get back on his motorbike.
“I’m one of the few people in the world to have a prosthetic arm which is powered by my brain,” he said.
“There’s nothing I can’t do – and that includes accepting the challenge of the Cateran Yomp.”
As well as the anniversary of Andew’s life-changing injuries, 2020 also marks the tenth anniversary of the event, which has raised over £3.8 million for The Soldiers’ Charity.
Andrew has now joined Paralympian powerlifter Micky Yule, rugby player Rob Wainwright and mountaineer Polly Murray as an official ambassador for the event.
He will take part alongside hundreds of other participants with wife Kailey and several of their friends by his side.
“It’s my way of repaying The Soldiers’ Charity for the amazing service they gave me,” he added.
“Over the years, The Soldiers’ Charity has helped so many soldiers and veterans and their families. In my case, and in so many others, their help was exceptional. Knowing there’s a friendly voice on the other end of the phone or being able to pop in and talk to someone at an ABF branch can make such a difference, especially at those times when you feel no-one understands.”
For more information visit www.soldierscharity.org/yomp