By Sally Churchward Senior Feature Writer
A HAMPSHIRE dad who couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes without taking a rest and who feared he would never be able to kick a football or run around with his children has had his life transformed thanks to pioneering knee surgery.
And Brett Stephens has made the most of his new-found ability to work out by training as a body builder and winning a national body building competition.
The forty-year-old from Hedge End was always a regular gym-goer, but it was not until after he had recovered from his most recent knee operation that he decided to train as a competitive body builder.
The director of a recruitment business, who has two children, aged two and eight weeks, began going to the gym when he was at university, but his preferred sport throughout his 20s was basketball.
Unfortunately, this caused wear and tear to his knees, and one day, he landed after jumping for the ball and his knee felt like it had exploded. It swelled up like a balloon and Brett was taken to hospital and went on to have the first of nine operations on his knees.
He thought that the problem had been fixed and went back to playing basket ball, only to injure his knee again a few months later.
Both knees were injured in more than one place.
Brett gave up playing basketball but was getting injured doing day to day things. He even injured his knee on honeymoon in Cancun, when he went for a swim in the sea with his wife, Katie, and was picked up by a wave.
Day-to-day tasks were often made difficult for Brett due to his knee pain.
“When I was out shopping with my wife, I’d have to stop every couple of minutes because of the pain, and I walked with a limp for two years,” says Brett.
Brett wasn’t happy with the surgery he was offered, as it would have meant a very long recovery period and began to research alternatives himself.
This initially led him to an American company, which manufactures an implant called BioPoly. Having discussed the product’s suitability with the company, he had to find a specialist in the UK to perform the operation.
Luckily for Brett, he has private medical insurance which covers experimental surgery, and he was able to have the operation performed, with great success, on his 38th birthday.
He was scheduled to have the same surgery performed on his right knee, but when his knee was opened up his surgeon found that the implant wasn’t suitable, and Brett had to hit the internet again, to find an alternative.
He found a Swedish company, Episurf, which makes a bespoke implant. Brett went back to the surgeon at The Spire, Southampton who had performed seven of his previous knee operations, Professor David Barrett, who fitted two implants on his right knee on Brett’s 39th birthday.
It was transformative for Brett.
“It completely changed my life, ” he says.
“Now, I’m without limitation. I can run, jump, I could play basketball if I wanted to. There is nothing holding me back anymore. My only frustration is that no one seems to know that these operations are an option.”
Having been given a new lease of life, Brett decided he wanted to take on a new challenge and take his fitness to a new level and decided to train as a competitive bodybuilder.
“I wanted to prove that you can come back from adversity,” says Brett.
Although Brett had been going to the gym regularly, he had only been able to train his upper body and had not been able to do regular cardio work outs, due to pain or surgery on his knees.
“I employed a bodybuilding coach, Rob Whitfield, who came up with a diet plan and training plan that worked with my knee issues.”
Brett admits that he had his doubts about taking up bodybuilding at a competitive level in his late 30s.
“I felt my time was up but I spoke to Rob and he said it was achievable. I decided to give it a go, and it lit a fire in my belly,” he says.
“I started the diet and training and it completely changed how I looked.”
Brett took part in his first bodybuilding competition, the UKBFF regional heat in Portsmouth, in April, where he won the ‘masters’ category, for over 40s.
“I cried when I won,” he says.
“It was an overwhelming feeling of elation, that I was able to achieve that.”
He went on to compete in the British finals on October 14, where he beat 14 other regional finalists to take top place in his category.
Brett plans to continue training and compete next year, to defend his title.
But he says the rewards have been even bigger off the stage than on it.
“My children are one of the major reasons why I kept going,” he says about his search for the best treatment for his knees.
“I wanted to be able to be a good dad and I was scared that I would never be able to kick a football about or do those dad things, like the egg and spoon race.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to do these things for a long time now. I couldn’t be happier about it, both with the bodybuilding and getting to be the best dad that I can.
“The biggest thing for me is being able to walk without pain. Before, I’d be doing things with a grimace on my face. Now, I’m doing it with a smile. I feel like a new man.
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