I wanted to document my journey from before my amputation, when my life changed forever, to my decision to complete my Wheely big challenge.
Before all the surgery started and the pain followed, over 6 years ago, I was quite active and fit. I used to run (alot) and cycle, swim and climb, lift weights and play tennis. Id pretty much try most sports, and loved all of them. Then one day after a long run my left foot started to hurt. At this time my day job was as a Theatre Nurse at an Orthopaedic Surgery day surgery hospital. I asked one of the surgeons to look at my feet. He said I had hammer toes, and would require surgery to sort them out. I had seen this surgery alot, and scrubbed for it many times. Although it was quite brutal (orthopaedic surgery is. Its the carpentry of the medical world). So I saw my GP, who refered me to an Orthopaedic doctor. He took Xrays and said that 4 of my toes on both feet needed surgery. He opted to start on my left foot, as it was the worst one. He said that I could either wait for surgery, or have it done now. He advised that it would be better to do it sooner than later, as I was young and fit, and would heel well. He said I should be back to running within 3 months. So I had the surgery. It took considerably longer than the 45 minute surgeries that I had been part of. Mine took about 3 hours. I was told this was because my foot was hard to dissect.
So I went home that day, and felt fine. I had a block in my foot to make it numb for a few days. When the block ran out I was in quite alot of pain, but managed to handle it ok. It wasnt until about week 12 that I started to think that something was not quite right. My woulds healed fine, and the bones fused, but I was still in alot of pain. As the Nurse put it, a disproportionate level of pain to the stage of healing which I was at. So I started to think I must be a complete wimp. Others were walking without crutches by now, and I was still completely dependant on them. I remember at about 14 weeks, taking a trip to Sainsburys, and whilst crutching my way around, I saw one of the Orthopaedic Nurses who was involved with my surgery. He hollared across the shop, “you should be off those by now”. Well, this made me feel terrable. I started to think that the pain must all be in my head, and that I had to get off my crutches.
At this point I was still on alot of pain killers and could not reduce them, if I wanted to sleep!. So I stayed on them. I could not reduce them. I started trying to get used to pain, and trying to walk without my crutches. After 8 months I had no choice but to go back to work as a Nurse. Pay had run out and we were facing living in a cardboard box if I diddnt. So I went back, but has to reduce my hours from full time, to 22 hours a week. A huge pay cut, but better than no pay at all.
Work was hard. Alot of walking, and although the Nursing profession is supposed to be a caring one, after being off for the whole of summer, I found that there was not much compassion at all, and alot of comments like “enjoyed your summer off did you? “, “it’s alright for some, being off all summer!”. This made life for me quite difficult. I had always been a very competant Nurse. I had alot of experiance in scrubbing for very complex surgeries, and so when my training and development was halted (“because id had surgery, and been off for so long”). This was a little hard to take. Especially as my foot was getting worse. I diddnt tell anyone. I was hoping it would just start getting better. But it diddnt.
So after being back at work for a couple of months I requested to see a new Orthopaedic surgeon. I was convinved that something must have happened in the surgery, because it took so long, and that must be why I was still in pain. So I thaught that a second opinion was best. I was refered to a lovely Doctor. Not that my other one wasnt nice, because he was, but this chap made me feel very comfortable and at ease, and put my mind at rest that the pain was not in my head. He took more xrays and saw that the toes id had fused, had not fused entirely straite, and I needed the same surgery again (a revision). So I had this done. I remember waking up in alot of pain. The poor nurses in recovery struggled to get on top of it. Eventually after having most of the pain medications in the drug cupboard, and after being in hospital all day, I went home with more pain medications.
The recovery was pretty much the same as the first surgery. My foot in a large bandage. An appointment to have my stitches out. Me explaining that I was in alot of pain. More than before. Being told it would get better, and that I just had to be patient. It diddnt get better. I was off work for 10 months this time. All the while, trying to adapt myself to being in pain, and accepting that this was going to be my new life.
So after 10 months I returned to work. The same reception met me as before. I started to feel like I was being punished for being off sick. So the last thing I needed was to still be in pain and having to have more surgery. Id spend every day at work trying not to limp. I certainly would not complain.
But as before, after trying my hardest to live with the pain, it became unbearable. Alot of it was centred around 1 toe. It was migrating to the left. So I had surgery to remove the joint. This diddnt work, so I asked my doctor to remove the toe. This still didnt work, and the pain was moving to the next toe. Well, all over the foot, but I thaught it was around that toe. So I asked for that one to be removed too. This was done in April 2018.
This was my last Orthopaedic surgery before my leg was amputated. Needless to say, I had been off work alot, and although at this point I had been there for 7 years, people who had just started and been there for 6 months, made more career progression than I was aloud. So life was pretty rubbish.
I was fed up with being in pain. Fed up of not being able to run. Fed up of my life taking a path that I had not planned for. So I decided that I wanted my foot off. This was causing all of my pain. I was living on maximum pain killers. Not sleeping. Could not walk at all, and I was getting to the point of being totally dependant on being wheelchair bound. I could not have my foot dangling at all as it was too painful. I was asked alot what the pain was like. Id simply say ” have you ever stubbed your toe, and remember that gut wrenching pain that makes you want to throw up?”. Well it was like that, all of the time.