Keeley Donovan with the exclusive story of a major spinal operation which could help soldier and amputee Ben Parkinson to walk again.
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This week: The soldier
having a vital operation
to help him walk unaided.
And the research project
here in Bradford helping to improve
the health of future generations.
Hello, I'm Keeley Donovan and this
week we are in Bradford.
Coming up on the programme: Helping
a hero - we have the exclusive story
of the spinal operation that
could be vital for soldier
and amputee Ben Parkinson.
You'll be all right, don't worry,
you're in good hands.
Also tonight: The Bradford tower
block which could pose a fire risk
to people living there.
Obviously, you want to
know that you're safe.
It's like when you go to bed
at night, you want to know that
you'regoing to be waking up
in the morning.
And later in the programme: Meet
the twins whose lives have been
studied since they were born.
You might remember soldier
Ben Parkinson, who fought back
from devastating injuries
after an explosion in Afghanistan.
Ben, who's from Doncaster,
lost both of his legs,
broke his back and suffered
a brain injury.
Now he's had another major operation
to straighten his spine and help him
achieve his dream of walking again.
I should warn you that
Emma Glasbey's report has some
images of the surgery.
Ben Parkinson is heading for
the operating theatre once again.
He s about to undergo major
surgery on his back that
could help him achieve his dream
of walking unaided.
How are you feeling
about the operation?
It s been over ten years I ve
been waiting for it,
so now I can t wait.
The aim of the operation
is to straighten his spine
so he can balance better
on his prosthetic legs.
You ll be all right, don t worry.
You re in good hands.
Far more nervous than he is.
He s cool as a cucumber,
we re in bits.
In 2006, paratrooper Ben Parkinson
was serving in Afghanistan
when he suffered massive injuries
in a landmine explosion.
Both his legs were amputated,
he fractured his pelvis,
broke his back and suffered a major
brain injury that
affected his speech.
Doctors did not think
he would survive.
Ben was told he would never
walk or talk again.
But in the 11 years since that
explosion, Ben has fought back,
determined to defy medical opinion
and make the remarkable recovery
no one was expecting.
Over the last couple of years,
Ben has been getting frustrated
because he s been struggling
to balance on his prosthetic legs.
Keep your shoulder up.
He had surgery in 2009 to install
rods and screws in his back,
but now Ben s spine has curved
at the bottom and his body
is pulling him sideways.
If you look from behind,
you can see that this side
of his pelvis is much further
from his shoulder than this one.
It's actually hoiked
across like that.
He can't get his weight
on to this side of his pelvis.
We think that Ben is not
going to progress much more
than this unless he s got his back
straightened, so that he can
actually shift his centre of gravity
from one side to the other.
The curve in Ben s spine has not
only affected his walking.
For the first time in years,
Ben has been complaining
It's uncomfortable and it's
making him sort of quite
unhappy and quite worried.
So this operation
is hugely important?
Yes, everything to Ben.
There are good medical reasons why
it's got to be done, but for Ben,
it's all about the walking.
Ben s ultimate goal is to walk
without crutches, but he also needs
to feel more balanced and secure
on his legs.
So how has the walking been going?
My walking is going a lot,
lot better but I need this
operation to progress.
So you're confident this is going
to make a big difference to you?
I am, yeah.
I don t know how big yet,
but it will definitely make
a difference in some way.
It s Monday morning - operation day.
Despite the fact he s
about to undergo major surgery,
Ben is feeling happy and relaxed.
Never mind nerves, Ben s only
complaint is about the hospital
I want to show you this.
Not much use.
Are you disappointed
you don t get to wear them?
I m very disappointed, yes.
Nice to see you again, welcome.
The operation is taking place
in Preston because the hospital
is also home to the specialist
Mobility Rehabilitation Centre.
It means afterwards Ben s legs
can be adapted to work
with his straighter spine.
We ve got a whole team assembled
downstairs in theatre.
We ve got somebody
monitoring your spinal cord.
Then we ve got the anaesthetic
machine and the X-ray
team all there, as well.
Eight years ago Ben had
surgery to install screws
and two rods in his back
following his spinal fracture.
Now his spine has curved
below these rods.
The surgeons plan to put more screws
in at the bottom of Ben s
back and then add length
to the original rods.
They ll use the new screws to help
to the original rods.
Roll right in.
Get as near as you can.
For Ben, it s the day
he s been waiting for.
The day he ll, hopefully,
move that much closer
to walking tall securely.
But for Ben s family,
it s yet another day
anxiously waiting for news
from the operating theatre.
I don t think it can
ever get any easier.
I don t think.
No matter how old your kids are,
you never think that this
is what you re going to be doing.
See you later on.
You ll be right.
I m glad it s here.
I m just apprehensive now.
I just want it to be over and we ll
With Ben now under general
anaesthetic, the two surgeons make
sure everything is in place.
OK, all good?
Good to go?
This operation is likely
to take somewhere between
four and six hours.
It all depends on how many
new screws need attaching
to the original one s
in Ben s spine.
The surgeons won t know that
until this operation
is a little further along.
One of the first tasks will be
to find the original rods
and screws in Ben s back.
We ve found the spine
which is a good start.
We ve got down to the old
instrumentation, which is great.
Do you know yet how many
new screws are going in?
I think we re going for six.
Yeah, we ll see how
Good, right what size
have we got here?
That s a 50.
Once the screws are in place,
it s time for the new rods to be
aligned with the original one s
in Ben s back.
It s a difficult procedure
and I should warn you now that
cutting the metal rods is not
a delicate task.
Yeah, well done.
With the new screws and rods
successfully in, the surgeons can
get to work straightening
Ben s spine.
So we ve got hold of his spine below
and we ve got hold of his spine
above and we re just stretching out
the inside of the curve.
X-rays are then carried out
the inside of the curve.
in the right place and see how much
of the curve they ve
managed to straighten out.
So far, it s looking pretty good.
It s looking fairly well balanced.
We re very happy with the X-rays
and how it all looks.
And you must be feeling
pretty tired now?
Getting that way.
I ll be looking forward
to a cup of tea.
With the operation
Ben will now spend the night
on the Critical Care Unit here.
Hopefully, tomorrow he ll be moved
on to a ward where he ll be able
to continue his recovery.
Easy does it.
Two weeks on, and Ben is already
back at home and working
to regain his strength.
That starts to pull a bit, does it?
Physiotherapy is now key
for his ongoing recovery.
It will take a while for us to get
the muscles stretched again
so that he's got symmetry,
but once he's got symmetry back,
then we'll be laughing,
I'm sure of it, yeah.
For Ben's family, after the worry
and nerves about the surgery,
it is now a chance to look forward
to the improvement they hope it
will bring to his life.
There probably are other
operations that this will lead
on to, but one at a time.
The next one won't be as scary,
but this one was a scary one
and we are glad it's over and we're
fairly sure that it's
an absolute 100% success.
Very, very, very good.
For Ben, that dream
of walking unaided once again
is a huge step closer.
And if you've got a story
you would like to tell us
about, you can contact us
on Facebook or Twitter.
Coming up on the programme:
The children whose lives are being
studied to help future generations.
A fire safety expert claims that
a block of flats in Bradford
could be a risk to life.
Summer Berry Residences,
which you can see behind me here,
is an eight story block which houses
private tenants and people placed
there by Bradford Council too.
I've been investigating.
This is the story of
an international investment
opportunity which was just too good
to be true.
It s also the story of high-rise,
low-rental apartments that
could have potential fire risks.
We say that this building is unsafe
for human habitation.
Obviously, you want to
know that you're safe.
It's like when you go to bed
at night, you want to know that
you're going to be waking
up the morning.
These are Summer Berry
Residences in Bradford.
They used to be offices.
Then they were converted into more
than 200 low-rent flats
in an eight-storey tower block.
Some apartments are occupied
by tenants placed here
by Bradford Council,
and some by tenants
with private landlords.
Apartments at Summer Berry are being
sold for as little as £5,000.
Sounds cheap, doesn t it?
But our investigation
shows they might not be
as good as they look.
Hong Kong, on the other
side of the world.
Investors have lost money buying
leaseholds at Summer Berry,
and they ve been left
with apartments which are run down
and could need costly repairs.
This glossy promotional film
was made by one of the same
companies involved at Summer Berry,
aimed at the same
Far East investors.
In Hong Kong, Yorkshire-based
property lawyer Martin Scott has
been hired by investors who say
they lost money.
TRANSLATION: My friend saw
an advertisement saying
we could get a 40% discount.
I hope we recover our losses.
TRANSLATION: We thought the British
legal system was perfect
because we have the similar good
legal system in Hong Kong.
So all the buyers didn t expect
there would be any problems.
There are some unusual
aspects to these flats.
On the lower and ground floor
behind me, 35 spaces were sold off
without any detailed plans.
But planning permission
was never obtained and
the work never happened.
They ve effectively bought a title
number, which is registered
in the Land Registry as a leasehold
title, but the title
doesn t represent an actual
property ? it s thin air.
So they ve bought thin air?
Yes, they ve bought thin air.
In February this year,
on behalf of Hong Kong leaseholders,
a detailed report was carried out
by a building management company.
It said the building had defects
relating to life safety and public
health and needed nearly
£9 million repair work.
We commissioned surveyors to carry
out a root and branch review
of the building and found,
to our horror, it was unsafe.
After the tragedy at Grenfell Tower,
how well protected are people
in low-rent housing?
Martin Scott believes
it s a widespread issue.
As Grenfell demonstrates,
the problem with building
regulations are widespread.
This is just one of a number,
I suspect, of accommodations that
have been built for students
and other residents
which are substantially substandard.
We decided to find out more,
so we tried to rent an apartment.
We were surprised at what we found.
Our researcher went to a rental
agency in Bradford,
Citywide Lettings, asking to see
a flat at Summer Berry.
She was shown an apartment,
and took a three-month
rental for £300 a month.
She was given no information
by the letting agency
or in the apartment
about fire safety.
This is the room, Keeley.
So, this is it?
It's not very big.
I thought it was going
to be an apartment.
It is, yeah.
I suppose at least
you've got a window.
Have a look, you'll be
in for a surprise here.
Not the greatest
outside space, is it?
We paid in advance,
without giving a full name,
an accurate address,
details of employment,
or reference, or any confirmation
that our researcher was entitled
to live in the UK.
It was very, very easy
to get this room.
I could basically be anybody.
Well, you have, you've
made somebody up here.
Other than your first name, this
is made up information, isn't it?
So you are totally
under the radar here.
I know after Grenfell,
they weren't able to identify some
of the people in the block of flats
and they wouldn't be able
to tell who you were,
where you came from.
At the end of August,
we asked an independent fire safety
expert to take a look round and make
a limited inspection.
There are lots and lots of fire
escape signs, directional signs
which are required to help people
escape, but a lot of them
are quite confusing.
Sometimes they lead back on each
other and sometimes I can come out
of a room and not have
any directional sign.
To take the worst case scenario,
escaping in the middle of the night
when the powers gone would have
given me grave concerns.
In the corridor, Tony looks
above the ceiling panels
and doesn t like what he finds.
We find compromises and breaches
in the compartmentation
where we have mains 240 volt cables
running from one compartment into
another which are not fire-stopped.
In this case, a hole has been
knocked in the wall.
The cable s been led
through and left.
The key thing is the protected route
because that s where everyone comes
to as a conversion point
to leave the building.
That s our common route.
That is the thing that has to be
30 minutes protection.
Tony found fire extinguishers
with out of date inspection labels,
and extinguishers that would be
difficult to use in a fire.
He also found fire doors
which were incorrectly fitted,
including one which would jam
when fully opened.
From what he s seen,
Tony believes there could be a risk
to life if a fire broke out
in the building.
I would have great concerns that
escaping from the fifth
and sixth floors upwards,
even those lower floors,
would be quite difficult
in some circumstances.
From a risk assessment
point of view, there
are certainly some work,
I believe, that needs to be done.
Would you feel
comfortable living here?
I would have concerns.
There are supposed to be fire alarm
tests here every Monday at 11.00am.
We monitored them over a seven-week
period and there was only one.
But what do the residents think?
I decided to find out.
Oh, they're horrible.
They are, they're horrible.
Do you feel unsafe living here?
I do, yeah.
I don't want to live
here, to be honest.
You live here because it's
a cheap place to live?
The only time they ever bother
you is when you owe them money.
That's the only time
they care about you.
Do you rent this privately?
No, I'm on benefits.
So the council have placed you here?
That makes you want to move on,
but it's just finding somewhere
to move to isn't always
as easy as that.
So they've got you over
a barrel a bit, really?
Who s making sure these
apartments are safe?
This is where it gets complicated.
A string of companies have been
linked to Summer Berry.
One of them has gone
Three months ago, the freehold
of the building passed
from a Jersey-based company,
CFIF Nominee Ltd, to another company
in London with a similar name,
CFIF Holding (No 1) Ltd.
This company told us that
a fire risk assessment had
been carried out in July
and the West Yorkshire Fire Service
were happy with the fire safety
management and fire safety
of the building.
No issues relating to breaches
of compartmentation or ambiguous
signage on escape routes
had been identified.
Despite Inside Out s
evidence to the contrary,
the company said fire tests had,
in fact, been carried out
every Monday at 11.00am
and logs were kept.
What about the letting agency
which needed so few details before
renting an apartment to one
of our researchers?
Citywide Lettings told us
there appeared to have been
a failure by a member of staff
and their internal procedures
had been tightened.
They ve now decided not to market
any properties at Summer Berry.
Most importantly of all,
what about the safety of tenants,
55 of them placed here by
Bradford Council and West Yorkshire
Fire Service said in a joint
statement they d made three site
visits since June and found no
evidence for taking enforcement
action, to prohibit the building s
use or to launch a prosecution.
They said this was subject to review
and reconsideration and any
new concerns should be passed
to them immediately.
They said they would continue to
monitor conditions at Summer Berry.
Their most recent visit
was on 20th September,
three weeks after we filmed
possible fire risks.
So despite our expert s concerns,
Summer Berry is classed
as officially safe, but would you be
happy living there?
This is what happened four days ago.
Tenants filmed this on the sixth
floor last Thursday when they say
a pan containing oil overheated.
Residents don t want to appear
alarms went off and it took ten
minutes for security staff
from the ground floor to get there.
The building's management company
says the sixth floor smoke detector
had been deliberately damaged
before the incident.
We re passing our findings
to the council and the Fire Service.
Let s hope, after Grenfell,
all tenants continue to be fully
protected from the risk of fire.
For the past ten years,
a huge research project called Born
in Bradford has been studying
the lives of thousands of children
across the city with the aim
of improving health and prospects
for future generations, including
these lovely ten-year-old twins.
It s an annual ritual.
Best dresses, hair in ribbons.
Twins Ruby and Rayya have been
having their photo taken once a year
ever since they were babies.
But this is more than a snapshot.
It s just one of the ways
in which throughout their lives
the girls have been recorded
and monitored by scientists.
Ten years ago, researchers recruited
13,500 Bradford infants
to help build a picture
of the city s health.
Ruby and Rayya s mum signed up
because of their older sister.
I was approached when I was pregnant
with the twins and they explained
that it was about childhood
illnesses and because I've got
Amelia, who has a rare
genetic condition, I felt
like it was the right thing to do.
Born in Bradford is one
of the world's biggest
medical research studies.
It set out ten years ago to study
and unpick the causes
of childhood illness.
There was plenty to go
at when they launched.
Alarmingly high infant
Add to that poverty,
obesity, education problems,
that s why a group of scientists
decided to turn medical detectives,
collect information at birth,
and study it alongside health
Our early life is really important.
It's a really critical window
for shaping our health as we grow
up, so it's not what happens
when you're 40 or 50,
it's what happens in pregnancy
and the first couple of years
in life that's so important to us.
Their first investigations
concentrated on Bradford.
They covered things like diabetes,
the effects of cousin marriage
and lifestyles in pregnancy,
but then others spotted that Born
in Bradford was a rich
source of information.
As the reputation of the study grew,
we got more and more national and,
ultimately, international interest
about the data that
we were collecting.
Our work on air pollution
that we did with some
of our European colleagues has
really driven the agenda
against diesel cars.
Our work on diet, chemicals
in the diet, has led
to legal changes in the US,
as well as all the local
stuff that we are doing
to try and improve things.
A lot s happened in
Bradford in ten years.
They ve built this city park,
Bradford City have been to Wembley
and a hole in the ground became
a shopping centre.
There have been a lot of changes
in the children s lives too.
Which is why Born in Bradford
is doing another round
of evidence gathering.
For the next two years,
this mobile research centre will be
stationed around the city.
And then put your feet right back.
And the thousands of children
will be called in to be weighed,
measured and scanned.
Today, its Ruby and Rayya s turn.
Themed idea is that...
The idea is that all this
information we collect will be
a really valuable resource
for researchers in the future,
so really this is a chance to think
about collecting anything
and everything we can that we think
is going to be important.
Are you going to press on there?
It's all done now!
So how was it, girls?
It was really fun and that is where
we got the pinpricks.
And it was fun having
the scanning things.
What do you think is going to happen
to all the information?
Probably going to go
to the whole wide world.
The whole wide world!
This is one of the research projects
that might use their information.
One of the things that we find is
that the number of children have
difficulty with fine motor skills
and the impact of this unknown life
is quite profound.
Try and stay
The research is tested
temp three children when they
started school and again when they
became the age of eight.
this amazing database. What it
allows us to do is understand what
sort of factors early on in life
ultimately determine a child's
They will watch either
children develop. This is where the
ten-year-old's information will come
Hi, guys? Have you had a go on
To give the children a bit
more help, they are also using
Does anybody want to have
a go at this? This system can't
divide gentle forces that will help
children are some of the first in
the country to practice handwriting
with virtual reality robotic pens.
It looks like you are in a different
world, that you're standing in a
It felt like you
were really right writing on paper.
There is lots of evidence that
children who are less active become
less physically healthy but also are
at higher risk of mental health
problems. Motor skill problems start
to impact on educational attainment.
The research project to grow over
the last ten years. Sadly, so the
problem is that the scientist ever
The children being born
in this hospital today faced the
same if not greater risks than they
did when we started. Childhood
obesity, childhood diabetes. Studies
like Born in Bradford around the
world, New Zealand, the states, in
Europe, were spending too much time
describing the problem rather than
tackling the issues.
That is why a
Born in Bradford got involved in
activities like this. Better start
Bradford run a variety of groups
with the common aim, to improve the
health of small children and their
parents and some of the most
deprived parts of the city,
developed with the help of Born in
I just going to read book.
A lot of the information that they
have helped us to understand the
needs in our area. It gave us some
really useful information for how to
set the programmable.
Bradford are now recruiting 5,000
children who have taken part in
better start groups, and that's what
unique about this, do not just being
observed. Born in Bradford will
measure what effect attending the
activities has on the children's
Knowing words like
start and finish...
Star! It is the
world's first experimental birth
There was a
questionnaire that we filled in, one
of the half hours it took! It is a
very valuable piece of work. Anyway
I can help, research point of view,
There is a science Festival
in Bradford's city park, chants for
the Born in Bradford team to meet
We have 30,000
people involved in border Bradford.
I am really keen to grow the next
generation of scientists. I'm
colouring a picture of science. The
most scientific thing about it is
that it goes on to the back.
horrible disease called diabetes of
lots of people are getting it
because we are eating far too much
of this stuff, and drinking too much
of this stuff.
When we can start
seeing what we can to do to improve
the health of the whole city, for me
this is the most exciting place you
can be in the world right now to do
Another set of twins in for
photo session. This isn't for a
medical reason, if the keep a visual
record of each year the study.
started with four in the first year,
no we between 50 and 60 pairs of
twins every year. The longer we do
it, though, the more interesting the
agree. Some of the most powerful
science from the study will come
when the children of today are in
their 60s or 70s. It is a lifetime
commitment. You have to be in it for
the long game.
That is all from here in Bradford,
but make sure you join us next week
when we examine claims that there
were delays in the emergency
services response after the
Manchester Arena bombing. And I join
the local trades people coming
together to help disabled couple.
Keeley Donovan with the exclusive story of a major spinal operation which could help soldier and amputee Ben Parkinson to walk again. Plus an investigation of fire safety in a Yorkshire tower block, and the twins who have been taking part in the Born in Bradford study since birth.