The Best Gift: Los­ing My Leg

All San­dra wanted was an agony-free Christ­mas

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS - San­dra Thomas, 51, Telford, Shrop­shire

Be­ing a mum of four teenage girls is hard work, for sure. Pu­berty, ex­ams, tem­per tantrums…

So in March 2004 I swapped work­ing in re­tail man­age­ment for a job at a petrol sta­tion, three days a week.

It meant I had more time with my girls.

On 1 April, just a month later, I was open­ing up at 6am.

Each morn­ing I had to move two fire ex­tin­guish­ers to the fore­court out­side.

They were so heavy they were fixed to a trol­ley so I could pull them.

But drag­ging the can­is­ters out­side, I went up a slight kerb.

Both of the rub­ber han­dles came off.

The trol­ley tipped and…

I yelled as it came tum­bling, crush­ing my left foot. The pain was un­be­liev­able. With sheer adren­a­line, I man­aged to lug the can­is­ters off me.

Crawl­ing to the of­fice I called my hus­band Andy, then 44.

‘Is this an April Fool?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I whim­pered. Tak­ing my trainer off,

I saw my foot was al­ready bruised and bleed­ing.

While my boss came to take over, Andy drove me to Princess Royal Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal for X-rays.

‘You’ve not bro­ken any bones,’ a doc­tor said.

A mir­a­cle!

No bet­ter

Sent home with crutches and painkillers, I thought that was the end of it. But a week on, my foot had gone black and started to swell.

I was in agony.

So I went back to hos­pi­tal, was put in a cast. But the pain just grew more and more se­vere.

Back at hos­pi­tal, I got a new di­ag­no­sis.

‘It’s re­flex sym­pa­thetic dys­tro­phy,’ a doc­tor said.

Turns out we all have sym­pa­thetic and non­sym­pa­thetic nerves.

The first kicks in after feel­ing pain, and the sec­ond starts the heal­ing process.

Ba­si­cally, the ac­ci­dent had dam­aged the sec­ond. Hence the pain! There was noth­ing the doc­tors could do, ex­cept wait...

‘If it doesn’t heal in three years, it never will,’ a doc­tor warned.

I longed to get bet­ter – but, months on, I was still in agony.

The slight­est touch to my foot sent me writhing.

Gone were the days of shoes and socks.

I limped on crutches, foot bare to the el­e­ments!

If it was rain­ing or windy, I wouldn’t go out­side be­cause it would send my foot into a fury. And I’m talk­ing a drop of rain, a breath of wind...

I never went back to work at the petrol sta­tion.

Not only that, it af­fected me as a mother, too.

My foot was a con­stant ir­ri­tant in the house. ‘Don’t touch my foot!’ I would warn my girls.

Even when I went to bed, my foot stuck out of the cov­ers. Three years on, I was still no bet­ter.

I saw spe­cial­ists, had trial treat­ments. Noth­ing worked.

Soon all the spe­cial­ists were sug­gest­ing the same thing. Am­pu­ta­tion.

‘I can’t,’ I sobbed to Andy. I’d lose my free­dom, as well as a part of my­self.

I vowed to put up with the pain.

But in spring 2012 I de­vel­oped cel­luli­tis – an ag­o­nis­ing in­fec­tion un­der my skin. That year, I spent more time in hos­pi­tal than out – and had seven op­er­a­tions. One left me with an ab­scess and a gap­ing hole in my foot. Sur­geons tried to drain the in­fec­tion, but it didn’t work.

That Oc­to­ber, I got bad news.

‘It’s your leg or your life,’ they said. ‘We can

On Box­ing Day, I was mea­sured for my pros­thetic

ar­range a pros­thetic.’

This time I didn’t ar­gue. On 19 De­cem­ber 2012, I was wheeled in for am­pu­ta­tion from below the knee.

I was ter­ri­fied, but fo­cused on get­ting bet­ter for Christ­mas.

Not the end

After my op­er­a­tion, the re­lief was in­stant.

The pain in my leg and foot had dis­ap­peared.

‘That’s the best Christ­mas present ever!’ I grinned.

In­cred­i­bly, I was home on Christ­mas Eve.

The fam­ily ral­lied round for din­ner and presents.

And, on Box­ing Day, the hos­pi­tal leg team made mea­sure­ments for my new leg.

By early 2013, I was hob­bling on pros­thet­ics from my knee down­wards.

The re­cov­ery process was amaz­ing.

‘I wish I’d done this sooner,’ I told Andy, now 57.

That year, I started a job as a health as­sis­tant in a lo­cal hos­pi­tal.

They didn’t even know I had a fake leg!

But, un­for­tu­nately – after 18 months – the pain re­turned.

With a vengeance!

I ended up in my boss’ of­fice, cry­ing and tak­ing off my leg.

‘Sorry, but I quit – the pain is too much,’ I cried.

It turns out I had a neu­roma – a be­nign tu­mour, re­act­ing to my sev­ered nerves.

The nerves in my stump were fight­ing to reat­tach them­selves to my miss­ing leg!

It caused chronic pain.

In July 2014, I had a sec­ond am­pu­ta­tion just below my knee to re­move some of the nerves and tuck them in.

It hap­pened around my 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary.

After a cou­ple of days re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal, we cel­e­brated by vis­it­ing the beach in Poole, Dorset.

Ev­ery­thing was great for 3 months, and I was pre­par­ing for an­other pros­thetic.

But the neu­roma re­turned, so I had high-fre­quency ra­diowave treat­ment to try and re­duce it.

The pain hasn’t dis­ap­peared – and, be­cause of it, I can’t wear an­other pros­thetic.

Now, I whizz around in a yel­low wheel­chair. Doc­tors can’t do any more. Talks of re­mov­ing my leg above the knee weren’t an op­tion, as the risks were too high.

I’m hop­ing to visit pri­vate con­sul­tants for a sec­ond opin­ion.

Now, I’m just look­ing


for­ward to the fes­tive sea­son.

I’m ex­pect­ing my eighth grand­child at Christ­mas.

So ex­cit­ing!

So, I’ll be rais­ing a glass with my lov­ing fam­ily this Yule­tide.

Be­cause I know – what­ever hap­pens, with their sup­port – I’ll take it all in my stride.

With hubby Andy, be­fore my ac­ci­dent

In plas­ter as the pain wors­ened Re­cov­er­ing, with my falsie

Cel­e­brat­ing our 25th an­niver­sary

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