A FORMER soldier from Wirral said he was “given his life back” after undergoing specialist augmented reality (AR) knee surgery.

Ex-Royal Corps of Transport soldier Robert Riley, 60, was one of his first patients to benefit from a high-tech surgery method after he damaged his knee joint.

The surgery was carried out by hip and knee specialist Alan Highcock based at Spire Murrayfield Hospital at Barnston.

Robert told the Globe: “I was really getting depressed. I couldn’t do anything. I have dived all over the world but if we went on holiday I could get into the swimming pool but I couldn’t get out again and there was no way I could get on a golf course or go scuba diving.

“If I put all the diving gear on I couldn’t stand up and I couldn’t even kick a ball around with my seven-year-old grandchild.

“I was 58 and in the space of 12 months I had gone from someone who could yomp up Moel Famau with the grandkids to needing sticks just to walk.”

His weight ballooned to 23 stone as he faced a wait of over two years for operations on the NHS and he said: “I’d have been in a wheelchair by then but my wife, Joy, had gone behind my back, cashed in her pension and got me an appointment with Mr Highcock who is a Wirral lad himself.”

Fourteen months ago, Alan operated on Robert’s left knee successfully making him the first surgeon in the North of England to use AR technology which superimposes a computer-generated image on the view of his real-world surgery through wearing a headset.

The operation carried out at Spire Murrayfield Hospital, took just over an hour under general anaesthetic and is less invasive than traditional knee replacement procedures.

Robert said: “I could kiss Mr Highcock. He asked me if he could use the AR technique and I said yes.

“The first op has made a real difference to me but the second with the AR has healed better and more quickly, the bruising wasn’t severe and I’m thinking of going back to work just 11 weeks afterwards.

“It’s given me a new lease of life – I never thought I’d be walking along New Brighton front again, eating ice cream with the grandkids. I’ve even bought a pushbike now with an attachment so one of them can ride behind me.

“It was horrendous being housebound, so depressing, but now I’m just so grateful. He’s a lovely fellow and he certainly knows his stuff.”