EASTBOURNE war hero Joe Townsend who delivered the Paralympic flame in spectacular fashion from a zip-wire high above the London skyline last week has paid tribute to doctors who allowed him to make the opening ceremony.
Joe Townsend, a former Royal Marine commando who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, contracted an infection last week and needed surgery just days before the opening ceremony on Wednesday night.
“It was down to them that I was there,” he told national newspapers. “I was rushed into hospital on Monday. Luckily my surgeons came in on their time off to operate to get me ready in time to be at the Opening Ceremony.”
Joe, dressed in a Games tracksuit and without his prosthetic legs, descended with the torch from the 115m high observation tower overlooking the Olympic Stadium in east London.
He was chosen for the honour after battling back from his devastating injuries to become an inspirational Ironman triathlete.
But he feared he would have to pull out of Wednesday’s extravaganza after developing an agonising leg infection which needed emergency surgery.
With typical grit Joe insisted on going ahead with the spectacular stunt – even though he was unable to wear his prosthetic legs.
He said, “I nearly didn’t make it because I got an infection on Sunday from a pressure sore. I was rushed into Salisbury Hospital and my surgeons came in on their day off to try and patch me up in time for the show.
“They managed to get me there but I still have to go back to have the rest of the operation and have my leg closed up. I was really worried at one point because it was so bad. I thought I was going to have to call up the organisers and tell them I’d have to back out. I was supposed to have arrived in the stadium on the zip-wire wearing my prosthetic legs.
“But, post-surgery, I have a really big hole in the back of my leg – so we had to have a lot of last-minute changes to make it possible. I would have liked to land on my legs, but needs must! On the day I was just really happy to be there.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m scared of heights, but I don’t enjoy them. I just put the nerves to one side and did it. Nobody had a clue I was up there until the spotlights shone on me and I heard the stadium erupt with cheering.
“It was an absolutely amazing feeling. Carrying the torch almost felt like a reward for all the hard work and effort I have put into getting my life back together.”