A man has spent more than a year looking heavily PREGNANT following a brutal attack in his home after the NHS have cancelled his surgery three times.
Distraught Russell Mills, 48, suffered a torn bowel when the masked thugs stamped on his stomach and left him for dead.
He was rushed to hospital and put in a high dependency unit and later readmitted with a deep-set infection.
But his stomach has been left grotesquely bloated and he has spent the 14 months since the attack looking like he is about to give birth.
His surgery has been repeatedly cancelled due to a lack of hospital beds and the dad-of-three now faces a second Christmas barely able to walk or function properly.
Russell said: “I look like a woman who is nine months pregnant with twins.
“I can hardly walk a couple of steps.
“I can now understand how a pregnant woman feels because the pain the weight inflicts on my back is absolutely excruciating.
“It’s different being a bloke, I can’t even walk to the end of the street without having to stop and lean against a wall because of my back.
“It’s crazy, I don’t know how pregnant women put up with it, I really don’t.”
Russell’s misery began in October 2014 when several intruders armed with knives broke into his home in Plymouth, Devon, and smashed a curtain rail over his head.
They stamped on his stomach, rupturing his bowel, and left him for dead as they fled the scene with £280 in cash.
He was rushed to Derriford Hospital for emergency treatment but told he would have to wait a year before he could have an operation to fix his overextended stomach.
The operation was initially set for October 15 this year but was then cancelled at the last minute as there was not a bed available.
Russell was told to return on November 12 but minutes before he was due to be put under anaesthetic it was cancelled for a second time for the same reason.
The operation was rescheduled for December 10 but just days before that he had a letter saying a cancer patient needed the bed more than he did and it was postponed for a third time.
He has now been told he has to wait until at least February for the surgery, meaning he has to spend his 49th birthday on Christmas Day with the crippling condition.
Russell, who is divorced, out of work and lives alone, said: “I was attacked last October, so it’s been over a year now.
“I remember being on the floor while the attackers stamped on my stomach and split my bowel.
“I was out of it from being smacked across the head, so can’t remember too much.
“I’ve been in quite a bad condition since then. I can’t walk and I’ve been in a lot of pain.
“My stomach is huge – the skin has stretched and it is that hard that it is like a drum.
“Once they have removed part of the intestine they plan to put mesh inside my stomach.”
Russell says he has chosen to speak publicly about his ordeal to plead with health bosses to let him have the operation before Christmas.
He said: “The first operation was cancelled because all the beds had been taken the night before, and the second one was cancelled because 15 minutes before I was due to go down someone came in.
“The third was cancelled because they had a cancer patient who needed my bed more than I did.
“After the second one I asked them how could they do this to me?
“They then told me I was a priority due to the two cancellations but they have snatched it away again.
“We pay tax for the NHS; it’s disgusting that a human being can be treated like this.
“I’ve been very badly let down by the NHS, I can’t believe it.”
Kevin Baber, chief operating officer for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are very sorry that Mr Mills’ operation has been postponed again.
“We aim to treat patients within 18 weeks and according to clinical priority.
“Where patients require a critical care or high dependency bed following their procedure, we must ensure that we have adequately staffed beds in order to provide safe care.
“Where staffing numbers are insufficient it will mean that, unfortunately, we will have to reschedule surgery for some patients.
“Critical care beds are used for both emergency and elective patients and therefore emergency admissions do take priority, resulting in bed availability changing and elective operations at times being cancelled.
“Rescheduling an operation is always a last resort and we recognise the distress and inconvenience that this can cause patients and their families.
“It is always a difficult decision to postpone an operation but providing safe care to our patients is at the heart of our decision making.”
A 32 year-old man has been charged with burglary and is due to appear at Plymouth Crown Court for a two day trial on Thursday.