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Written on 11th July 2016 by Sita Soni

I am a medical negligence solicitor at Boyes Turner and for the past eight years I have been working with people who have suffered an amputation as a result of negligent medical care. 

Recently I had the opportunity the meet Lisa Eagleton, a below knee amputee, who suffered a severe and life changing injury in 2007. I spoke to Lisa about her experience and her work with the Limbless Association and she kindly agreed to give me an interview. We hope that this information will be useful for amputees new and old, and can give others  an idea of what life can be like as an amputee.

How did you become to be a below knee amputee?

In February 2007, I was walking my dogs on the way to visit a friend, and a lady on her way to a football match changed lanes as I crossed the road. That is where it all began.

How did you feel immediately after the operation?

I didn’t have an amputation straight away. I suffered with a head injury, a broken nose, a damaged hand and a shattered fibula and tibia.

Initially my treatment was rods inserted alongside the shattered bones, and an ilizarov frame.  I had a couple of frames then a partial amputation. I was wired from my thigh to my toes at one point, and in a wheelchair attached to a vacuum pack dressing whilst I waited for everything to heal.  After 36 operations, I contracted septicaemia, and at the end of 2009 had the below knee amputation.

Initially following the amputation surgery,  I woke to feel relieved, hopeful that the pain would ease and my life could move forward.

How did your feelings change after that?

Days quickly turned into months, and months to years, but I had no let up from my painful limbs.  I became inactive and was mostly on crutches or in a wheelchair.  I did not feel like I really existed.  I just drifted through each day.

How did your life change after the amputation?

My partner and I drifted apart.  I felt he no longer fancied me after the amputation. I was left feeling unattractive with an urge to hide under big skirts and shirts. I was really down on myself. I also felt like a bad parent (I have four children). I went through a period of grieving for the body and the life that I had had. This went on for quite a long time.

You brought a claim against the driver who caused your injury.  How did that process help aid your recovery?

It meant that I could access the rehabilitation that I needed to help me get past what had happened to me, and to return to a life where I could be myself again.

What services has the compensation meant you can access, which you might not have been able to without it?

I was able to seek help from PACE Rehabilitation on a privately funded basis. I had access to specialists to find the answers I had about my injuries and the rehab process. I had help with my mental health and my physical problems post amputation. I had a case manager who introduced me to PACE Rehab, and they essentially “put me on my feet” by providing me with good prosthetic limbs.

How did this help you?

PACE got me from being unable to walk a step to years later being able to run. I had support with the whole rehabilitation process and access to specialist to help me learn about every aspect of my life from this different perspective.

What do you think the hardest thing to deal with was?  How did you manage?

I am not sure there was one thing that was particularly difficult to deal with. Looking back, I certainly did not recognise the extent of my psychological injury, and it was good to have access to help with that. I had carers for a while as well, and the whole rehabilitation package was just great.

What would you encourage new amputees to do in terms of support as a result of your experience?

Talk to someone. Amputation can be a lonely journey. There are lots of bumps along the road, but there are many moments where you can achieve a step more than yesterday but no one knows about it but you, unless you talk to someone.

What words of advice would you offer to an amputee, new or old?

It can take a lot to get past the boundaries of a body that does not appear to work, or does not look the same as it used to. We place a lot of weight on what others will think of us, and that can often be the hardest thing to overcome. What society thinks of us as amputees can be important to us, and we have to learn to adapt to that. Coping after limb loss affects so many different areas of life, but you need to remember that you are not alone in it.

Lisa went on to say to me:

“I thought I had lost everything in my life as a result of my accident. I actually gained a life I would never have thought of for myself. I am not angry for what happened. I try to count the good things in each day. I am engaged, I have happy children, I can drive my own adapted car, and I now get to travel all over the country volunteering and meeting many fabulous people.

I have been able to become an alternative model, and I get to walk on stage and be photographed for magazines. I can walk, swim and occasionally I do the odd run. I recently took up pole dancing, I do hoop and silks, kayaking and yoga.

It is not now about a list of things I cannot do; it is a list of things I can do and that I want to achieve”.

Lisa is an inspiring individual who has taken the opportunity to reinvent herself after her amputation. Rather than sit and count the ways her life is limited, she strives to find new challenges where she can push herself physically and mentally.

Lisa has explained how important it is to talk to someone about becoming an amputee. The Limbless Association are hoping to work with Lisa and other amputees to develop further their volunteer visitors programme. This programme allows a new amputee to contact and talk to someone who has also been through the process, and get some much needed support and help.

If you have recently suffered a traumatic amputation and are looking for support, please contact the Limbless Association.