Former martial arts world champion Dave Mears, from Stamford, thanks NHS and taekwondo for recovery from lost leg
A former world taekwondo champion who went 'through hell' after losing a leg to a severe infection is looking forward to restarting his life.
Dave Mears has been beset by a series of life-changing setbacks over the last 18 months.
Having established himself as a professional photographer and bar owner in Thailand, he was forced to return home to Stamford in April last year when Covid closed his business.
One year on he then picked up an infection in his left leg and spent 10 weeks in hospital where he underwent four major operations.
However, Dave, from Stamford, is finally beginning to look forward again.
"I've been through hell, but finally I can see a big bright light at the end of a very long dark tunnel," said Dave.
"Covid had already ended my Thailand dream.
"It closed my business there and I was forced to leave the country and come home before all this happened."
Having been moved to temporary accommodation in Grantham after leaving hospital, Dave, 58, is now set to move into a new home after South Kesteven District Council found him a bungalow in Bourne.
Rehabilitation is progressing well ahead of schedule, and he's also working with an author to write his life story, provisionally titled 'I'm Still Standing', after the Elton John hit.
"It's surprising how things come together." he said.
"The council have been great and helped get my life back on track by finding this home.
"When we had the viewing I was like a kid at Christmas.
"I will only be eight miles from my sister and close to my best friend in Ryhall.
"I'm very much looking forward to restarting my life there."
Dave is also grateful to his friends and family who set up an ongoing fundraising drive.
The proceeds have allowed him to buy a motorised wheelchair and scooter, as well as furniture for his new home.
"I'm lucky to have a good sister and friends who will help take care of me," he added.
In just his second month of physiotherapy and rehab at Peterborough City Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, Dave's rate of progress has surprised specialists.
"The prosthetic leg is a wonderful piece of kit," he explained.
"I'm now allowed to practice walking at home with it using a wheely walker.
"But they've told me not to run before I can walk."
It is a far cry from how life looked five months ago after Dave was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital on April 10.
"I was in a hell of a state," he said.
"I had two operations at Peterborough and had this horrendous fever. I went from 85kg down to 66kg."
Doctors were unable to save the knee joint as they had hoped, so further operations followed to remove the leg above the knee.
"I don't think people realise how difficult it is to use an artificial leg without a knee," he added.
"But the NHS were absolutely fantastic.
"The front line staff - the doctors, nurses, specialists - are world-class in my opinion."
Dave held British, European and world titles in taekwondo and opened the popular Stamford YMCA Club in 1985 before starting a new life in Thailand which he called home for 21 years.
He believes his experience in sport has been key to his successful rehabilitation, both physically and mentally.
The sport has also rallied round for one of their own, making Dave official press officer for the Global Taekwondo UK Association.
"My martial arts got me through it," he said.
"I have a natural sense of balance which has really helped with the rehabilitation, and it also gave me mental strength, too, to fight on.
"I don't give up - I was world champion for a reason.
"I had a remarkable life until this happened, but I'm not going to let it stop me."