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Elephant Man: I'm Losing My Fingers And Toes

News of the World/Holly Jarvis | April 15 2006

THESE shock pictures show the horrifying plight of Ryan Wilson —the final survivor to pull through from the shocking Elephant Man drug trials.

After five weeks the human guinea pig still lies stricken in a hospital bed watching his swollen rotting fingers and toes DROPPING OFF.

And there may be worse in store. He could end up having ALL his hands and feet CUT off.

In an exclusive interview handsome Ryan, 20, told us: "I'm definitely going to lose bits of my fingers and toes. And they say I could be in here another six months.

"When I woke up in intensive care after almost three weeks unconscious, I only realised how serious my injuries were when I saw my hands and feet were black. Then I put two and two together. Three fingers were already shrivelled.

"But I was sedated and I don't think people wanted to break the news to me too fast. Look down at me though, and you can see for yourself."

As Ryan lay in a coma at Northwick Park Hospital, north London, after the ill-fated drug test, experts desperately tried to save him from dry gangrene.

"Now they're waiting for my body to heal itself," he said. "I'm told it's like frostbite and my fingers will just fall off.

"The three that are bad will go down to the knuckle.

"The doctors say they don't want to take my fingers off because that's messier than if the body sorts itself out.

"So if the fingers fall off they'll actually heal better. They're waiting for pink flesh to move further up the feet, but the tips of most of my toes are basically dead. So at the very least I'll lose them.

"I'd say at least half of my big toe has gone already. But it's just a matter of waiting. They just don't know."

Our pictures show the terrible state of his blackened feet and hands.

Ryan was the most seriously ill of the six victims, known as the "ele-phant men" after their heads and bodies swelled up following trial injections of the TGN1412 anti-inflammatory arthritis drug at nearby St Mark's Hospital. The other volunteers have all been discharged and escaped most of the serious conditions that Ryan suffered.

"I had heart failure, kidney failure, pneumonia, septicaemia and liver failure and was ventilated on 99 per cent oxygen," he said. "I lost four stone and my whole body went into meltdown. It was only machines that were keeping me going."

But Ryan has miraculously defied doctors, family and friends who all thought he would die.

"From what I've been told, I'm not supposed to be here," he said. "When I came around from the sedation, most of the doctors had a shocked look on their faces and said, ‘You're lucky to be here.'

"One told me I was a hero for withstanding the punishment my body took.

"But I'm forever indebted to all the staff for saving my life." Ryan confessed he only did the trial for the £2,000 fee so he could pay for driving lessons and a family holiday.

But now the ordeal has blighted his life—permanently disfiguring his body, dashing his dreams of a career as a plumber and the joy of playing his beloved sport, football.

He is chasing compensation from drug test company Parexel and the manufacturer TeGenero. He said he was told the only side-effects would be nausea and headaches.

Ryan's girlfriend Michelle Bayford, 20, is too upset to talk about the tragedy. But his Irish mum Marion Flanagan, 50, who has been at his bedside day and night since Day 1, is appalled by what's happened.

Risk

"It horrifies me that I could go into Ryan's room one day and find his fingers have just fallen off," she said.

"But the doctors say that this is much better than them being surgically removed and there's less risk of infection. We know he's going to lose three fingers and the tips of his toes but it could get much worse."

News of the World expert Dr Hilary Jones said: "The worst case scenario for Ryan is that the dead tissue spreads and he will lose his hands and feet."

Mum Marion said her son's survival is an answer to her prayers. "When I first saw him in intensive care I thought he was gone," she admitted.

She is still fighting for answers from the two drug companies who she says have "ignored" the victims' families.

"We've been kept completely in the dark about what happened that day of the trials. It's a constant battle to get answers," she said. "I'm very angry."

 

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