'I nearly lost both legs to a verruca, but Scottish tech saved my life'

WARNING: Graphic images - Barry Mayled's verruca got out of control when it became infected and ulcerated, leaving him barely able to walk.

Man who nearly lost both legs to a verruca hails Scottish tech that ‘saved his life’ Supplied

A diabetic man who nearly had both legs amputated because of a festering verruca said a device created by Stirling medical experts “saved his life.”

A procedure to amputate Barry Mayled’s legs was hours away from taking place after the 73-year-old had been plagued by horrific ulcers which worsened despite extensive and varied treatments.

Barry’s verruca got out of control when it became infected and ulcerated. It was found to be resistant to multiple treatments over four years and spread to both feet.

Painful growths behind the toes of the architect and garden designer from Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan left him barely able to walk.

However, at the 11th hour, a microwave treatment for skin lesions called Swift was used to heal him, which targets low energy doses to stimulate the immune system.

It was developed by scientists Gary Beale and Eamon McErlean who met while studying at Heriot-Watt University and the company Emblation has its headquarters in Stirling.

Barry said: “It saved my life. I’m still working and I’m on building sites and everything, and without my legs, that would have been the end of it. As a sole practitioner, my career would have ended if the amputations were carried out.

“At one point I was in hospital surrounded by medics and things were so bad that the main surgeon was just shaking his head.

“There was pretty much nothing left to try and it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ my legs would have to be amputated below the knees.”

Leg amputations are often linked as a complication of diabetes, which can cause reduced blood flow and nerve damage in the lower limbs.

Barry said problems started in late 2017 and he added: “I developed what looked like a bruise on my right foot.

“Later, my wife and I were down in Devon and the bruise got redder and sorer, and eventually burst, becoming septic.

“That was the start of four agonising years of trying to get the correct treatment after it then spread to my left foot. It lingered on to the point where my NHS podiatrist called the surgeon in – who was shaking his head upon the sight of my feet.

“They took X-rays and found the infection was getting closer to the bone, increasing the risk of osteomyelitis.

“As a result of the X-rays there was a little conference going on around me.

“The surgeon was there, the senior podiatrist from the wound clinic and the person dealing with me directly, and they all told me that my only options was to have both limbs put into plaster which would immobilise me, destroying my career with no guarantee it would work.”

Podiatrist Tracy Davies applies Emblation’s Swift device to the feet of Barry Mayled. Photo: Supplied.

Company director and podiatrist Tracy Davies said: “When I first saw Barry at the practice, both his feet were severely ulcerated.

“He had seen his dermatologist who had confirmed the presence of verrucae tissue in the ulcerations, and he was desperate to prevent amputation.

“My colleagues in the NHS had provided excellent wound care but it was time to look at the problem from a different angle. I wondered if I used Swift to treat the verrucae, would I be able to heal the ulcerations and therefore save Barry’s feet from amputation? Quite frankly we had nothing to lose.”

The podiatrist removed dead and damaged tissue and began the microwave treatment and over time his verrucae and ulcerations started to reduce, completing healing by September 2023.

She added: “I was amazed by the remarkable turnaround in Barry’s condition. My business partner and I have both been HCPC registered podiatrists for more than 40 years and Swift has shown the most effective treatment outcomes for verrucae we have treated to date.

“Barry’s case has highlighted verrucae infection as a possible cause of foot ulcerations failing to heal and has increased the possibilities of using Swift in such cases. This could be far-reaching in the treatment of non-healing foot ulcerations, thus preventing unnecessary amputations.”

The treatment has transformed Barry’s life and he is now eligible for double knee replacement surgery. He added: “Now I haven’t got a problem with my feet. They’re fine. It’s just a question of biting the bullet on when I want to have my knees done. Then I’ll be the bionic man and I can maybe enjoy my retirement.

“There will be many more people who are in my situation, so I would urge everyone to seek out this Swift treatment and hope that in the future more people can benefit from this technology.”

The Swift device has been backed by health tech investors and has been rolled out by podiatrists across the globe to treat verrucae and plantar warts with over 350,000 treatments carried out to date.

The technology is also undergoing extensive medical testing to establish its efficacy in treating a host of other conditions including pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions like Basal Cell Carcinoma.

The Emblation team believe it will eventually revolutionise treatment across multiple conditions.

Gary Beale, CEO of Emblation, said: “Barry’s story is truly inspiring and highlights the transformative capability of our Swift microwave therapy. Cases like this motivate us to continue innovating and raising awareness so that more patients can access and benefit from this game-changing technology.”

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