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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
Sparky

My Story

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This is turning out to be harder than I thought; I have to go back to my childhood.

I was a complete failure academically, I only went to school for the sports, I boxed, did track and field, played football, cricket and swam, swimming was my first love and I was very good. My ambition was to win an Olympic gold at swimming and join the Royal Marines. Sport had taught me not to show weakness and to raise my game when my body was screaming at me to give up.

My accident happened on the 18th June 1965, I was 12yrs and 11 months old, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was trapped in a room with exploding 5 gallon drums of chemical, then the bulk of the stored chemical exploded as one, blew me clear out of the roof and I landed in the field behind, not a good landing, broke both my ankles. The ambulance and the fire brigade did not find me; it was a police officer checking the perimeter an hour later. I was taken to the local hospital, they did not have the facilities to deal with me and arrange for me to be transferred to a hospital 70 miles away, I was not expected to last the trip. My father had to be flown down from Scotland and went with me; he only visited me twice after that.

I spent 4 weeks in intensive care, had 2 nurses looking after me 24x7, died once and came back, no one could explain that to me, my surgeon, some time later said, it just wasn't my time to go. My mother moved into the hospital for that month, I couldn't speak to her or even see her, my eyes had been damaged and I had burnt the inside of my mouth, throat and lungs. Losing my legs does not come close to losing my sight. That first month is a bit vague because of all the drugs, I can remember lying in bed and touching my legs and having chunks of flesh coming away in my hands.

I was transferred into the burns unit; my wounds were dressed for the first time - what luxury. Once all the dead stuff had been removed, the actual damage could be assessed and it wasn't good. My legs from the ankle to the knee had been burnt to the bone and most of the calf muscle had gone too, my thighs had lost about a quarter of the muscle and my ankles were broken. I had to fight to keep my legs I still had my dreams and ambitions. My face had taken a beating and had to be re-built, the rest of me wasn't too bad in comparison. I also started to get my sight back. I went to the operating theatre every 7 – 10 days for months.

Went home after nearly a year in hospital, my friends came round to see me took one look at me and went. It was another 6 months before I went back to school, what a reception, I was treated like a freak. The names didn't bother me, being stabbed with sharp objects to see if I was real did, after a couple of days of this I grabbed to next boy to attack me and hit him so hard I split his nose, I didn't get any more hassle after that. Because of my age, I was too old to be classed as a child and to young to class as an adult and therefore sat in no-mans land when it came to support and rehabilitation – I just didn't get any. It was my choice to go back to school I didn't have to.

I spent every school and college holiday in hospital; it was Christmas 1970, gone in to have work done on my legs. I was in a new ward, purpose built for burns patients single or double rooms with on suite bathrooms and televisions and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the countryside. I was getting changed and caught my reflection in the window it was the first time I had seen my self naked. I had seen most of myself but only in sections this was the first time I had seen the whole picture, all I saw looking back at me was this grotesque thing if it wasn't for the timely intervention of a nurse doing her rounds I would have done myself in. I still have dark days, mainly when the infections take over and I'm laid in bed glowing bright red. My wife and kids have put meaning into my life and that's what keeps me going.

After I came out of hospital that last time, my GP arranged for a social services panel to assess me. I turned up and sat in front of seven people, a mixture of doctors and social workers. I was interviewed but I drew the line at stripping off so the could see for themselves, they proclaimed me to be severely disabled, didn't offer any sort of advice or support and in so many words told me I was good for nothing. I exploded, I hadn't gone thru 4yrs of physio hell getting my body straight and walking without a limp just to be told I wasn't good for anything. I walked out; I have never gone back to them.

I went out and proved to myself that I could do anything I wanted and I did, I have always found solutions to every obstacle. I know how short life can be, and that has changed my perspective on life.

I started to go down with continuous infections in the legs about 3 years ago followed by ulcers, last year it became unmanageable and I had to stop work. Christmas 2005 was probably the worst days of my life; I really don't remember any of it.

After a lot of test and scans, I received a letter from the hospital saying that I was booked in for surgery on February the 3rd; it didn't explain what the surgery was. I also received an invitation from the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit to meet the team – then I knew what the operation entailed.

The surgeon explained that my blood had stopped going into my legs and they were now rotting on the inside, because of all the burn damage/ previous repairs they could not be repaired again. He wasn't sure how much of my legs were damaged and they would start below the knees and work up the legs. Fortunately, it was a bilateral below knee amputation. For the first time in years I feel fit and healthy, I went back to full time work 3months later.

Because of the burn damage to my legs, my nice (very basic NHS) shiny new legs cut my stumps to ribbons. Now, after six months I am walking and planning a new future.

I wasn't sure if adding the following added anything. I have decided it is my story/journey and have updated.

I can no long wear prosthetics as they were causing a lot of damage to my limbs I'm now a permanent wheelchair user. My new chair post-2147-1271325221_thumb.jpg

January of this year I was diagnosed with Oesophageal (gullet) cancer. A bit of a bomb to land in your lap, the prognosis wasn't good because I'd left it a very long time before going to the doctors. I couldn't have Chemo as it would do me more damage than good. March I was offered surgery which I agreed to, March the 20th I had a 6 hr. operation to remove the cancer and then spent the next 10 days in ICU being kept alive by machines until I started healing. Good Friday the surgeon came to see me and told me that they had managed to remove all the cancer and that I was clear and clean.

I have yet again been given another chance at life. It will take until the end of the year before I'm fit enough to go back to work on a part time basis. My wife has said she doesn't want me going back to work and wants to move and start a new life. So, we're looking to move and start some sort of business in the Shetland Isles.

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Hi Mate,

Not sure what to write here, my wife has just read your post and has gone for a little cry somewhere, & I have a bit of a lump in my throat certainly puts any problems that I have into perspective. Pleased that you are getting over it (if you can ever get over anything like that.)

We (wife and I) both agree with your wife 100%, new start, new life, and the Shetlands are a lovely place to go.

Hope that you find peace up there; if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to work I would join you..

Take care. …………………………Mick

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Hi Sparky

Really sorry to hear about your recent illness ... but glad to hear you are on the mend. Sometimes it doesn't seem fair what 'life' chucks at people, I am sure there are reasons somewhere that we don't yet understand.

I hope everything goes well in your new life in the Shetlands ... its a lovely part of the world. I have never been there, but it is where my husband's father's family came from, we have photo's etc. and his dad used to talk of it a lot, so feel I have a connection and hope to get there and see for myself one day.

Am taking it they have internet connection up there, so keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

Ann

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Wow, Sparky...what a run you've had. I'm very glad to hear that they got the cancer. The idea of a "new life" sounds good to me...I hope you and your wife find exactly what you're looking for!

Your new chair looks like quite the "hot thing"...having spent various chunks of my life in and out of wheelchairs, yours is one that I'd probably stare at admiringly. Hope it gets you around in style!

You know, I've never liked being told that I'm somehow "inspirational" to folks...but we are generally a determined lot of survivors, and some of us are more inspirational than others. You and your attitude have always been an inspiration to me. There...I've said it, and I won't take it back!

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Sparky - Your story is amazing, and thank you for sharing. What you have been through and overcome is astonishing. I want you to keep in touch and let us know how you are and enjoy yourself with that amazing new chair that you have.

Please keep in touch...

Flip

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Hey Sparky,

What a story, thanks for sharing that.

Shetlands, what a place to live, love and rest, sounds just what you and your family need.

Good luck, let us know how things go.

Lynne

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Crikey Mark, you kept that quiet!

Right then, listen to Alison and get off to the Shetlands soon as... ;o) make the business a B&B so I can come and see you though and don't become a stranger!

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"Sparky" I really don't know what to say....I have never met someone with so much backbone! You have to be the 8th. wonder of the world.. :happy: ..You need to write your autobiography and tell how you have handled your trials. Did you dig deep inside; hang onto your God ... how? Most people when learning about this last illness would have simply crawled into a corner to die, but not you. When you are well enough to leave be sure to keep in contact with the rest of us.

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Just over four years ago after my amputation, we had decided to buy a B&B in Fort William, Scotland as a change of life. As it happened I went straight back to full time work and everything went back to what we call normal. Not a bad thing to have happened as it turned out. This time we will buy a B&B in Shetland. They do have internet connection and a very good webcam site. Now I'm ready for a change, Shetland is a beautiful and wild part of the world; we visited there twice last year and wanted to stay. At the moment I'm still recovering and still very tired, I've been told this can take a year or more to get over. You come out of the operation feeling like you've just been hit by a train.

I was told afterwards by some of the ICU nurses that quite a few people refuse the operation, even get of the operating table just before they get their anaesthetic. I presume that different hospitals have their own policies when it comes to how much information is given to patients and when. I was told at the beginning it would be a very complex operation and there could be a few things go wrong including death. The death thing wasn't a big deal as I was already facing that if I kept the tumour, becoming a cabbage did, and being a burden to my wife and kids preyed heavily on my mind. When I got to the operating theatre the anaesthetist explained that they would be removing a rib and deflating my right lung as they would be accessing the tumour through my back and I would be losing about half my stomach. He also explained that I would be connected to about 17 different wires and tubes for the next 7 – 10 days. These are the things that were left out of my conversation with my surgeon at the beginning. Maybe they waited until I was in the operating theatre to tell me as they knew I hadn't got any legs and couldn't run away.

I have always believed that we are either caterpillars or butterflies, caterpillars only see death and butterflies only see life, I only ever see life and that is what I always head for. I have no control and cannot explain any further about what drives me – either that or I'm incredibly thick and stupid.

The wheelchair is my pride and joy, I took delivery a couple of days before Xmas, fantastic in the ice and snow. I got it as it could cope with going across country, I do a lot of fishing and need to access off trail locations, and the chair can do that and loads more. there is one exhibited in the London science museum.

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Sparky, you are just incredible.

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Sparky, the webcam network is really something...almost feels like I've been there! What a lovely part of the world to live in.....(sigh....) :smile:

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Looking forward to it already ;)

You'll be our first over charged guest. :biggrin:

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