A British quadriplegic has become the first person to have a microchip embedded in their body to give him his independence back.
Alex Lewis, 37, from Hampshire, nearly died in 2013 when, after thinking he just had a cold, he was diagnosed with Strep A - a rare bacterial infection from which a person’s flesh starts to eat itself. He was given just days to live, but survived after all four of his limbs were removed.
Now, he has had a microchip installed in the stump of his left arm, and using the same technology as is in pet microchips it enables Alex to open the front door of his home and his car door.
Eventually, it will also contain all his medical records, in case he is ever rushed to hospital.
For the moment, it means Alex can get in and out of the house and his car by himself and let friends and family in, rather than depending on his wife or carers.
Alex said: "The independence this will give me is great. One of the worst things about what happened four years ago is the lack of independence.
"You are reliant on so many people. Anything that creates more independence is gratefully received."
The microchip system was invented by a small Hampshire-based firm 18 months ago, which Dr Geoff Watson, the doctor who saved Alex's life, is involved in.
Dr Watson himself has been microchipped to trial the technology. He hopes that soon he¹ll be able to use it to buy train tickets, pay for meals and even travel abroad without a passport.
But treating Alex made him reconsider how the technology could be used. He said: "Initially, we thought that it was just a bit of fun which would mean that you could leave your ID at home. But for people like Alex, this will make a massive difference."
Alex said that it often takes him 20 minutes to get his front door keys out of his pocket, using a prosthetic hand. "If I drop them, it takes even longer," he joked. He said that the impact it would have on his life would be "huge".
Alex, who ran a pub with his wife Lucy before his illness, now works as an interior designer and said he's "blissfully happy".
"I wouldn't go back to my old life,¹ he said. "I was just coasting. Then I got ill. Sure, I lost my limbs, but I had a reason to live, which was my wife Lucy and my son Sam.
"All the amazing stuff that I do, like getting a microchip, would never have happened.
He added: "Dr Watson saved my life, so testing this technology for him is the least I can do."