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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum

Hey - My story

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Hey all,

I'm K, 24 years old and no prizes for guessing where I come from! Here's my story to date...

My Accident

I had a LBK amputation 5 months and 6 days ago (not that I'm counting) as a result of trauma. I was climbing an extinct volcano - as you do - and lost my footing (ha!) and fell some 150 feet (45 metres) to the ground. Thankfully, as a result of an acquired brain injury, I have no memory of the accident whatsoever. Unfortunately, as well as rendering my left leg "unsalvageable", I also managed to smash my "good leg", pelvis and various other bones from head to toe. I now sport a metallic pelvis, right femur, right knee, lumbar vertebrae, ankle, left hand.

Despite this polytrauma, I survived to tell the tale and I was wheeling myself around in my wheelchair within a few weeks of the operations, walking on a PPAM Aid and then my first prosthetic leg within about eight weeks of rehab, and I'm now back at the gym giving it my all. In a very odd sense, my accident is the best thing to have happened to me. If you'll excuse the overused cliché, I can honestly say I live each day like tomorrow isn't going to come.


I spent some four weeks in the general hospital before being transferred to my local rehab hospital where I spent about 12 weeks as an inpatient. Although it very recent, my memories of my time there are very confusing. I recall the instant relief of being in much more calming environment than the busy general hospital, but I equally remember feelings of utter despair and simply begging doctors to "just let me die". Despite my now changed outlook, these feelings do return from time to time. Aside from the pain - physical bone/post-op pain and neuropathic pain - I felt as if the guy I was before had somehow died and that the 'new me' was grieving for him. It only recently became apparent that I wasn't grieving for the dead me, rather I was I was grieving for my left leg! Somewhat out of character, I resorted to withdrawing myself from the world entirely and refusing to get out of my hospital bed to take part in any sort of therapy - physical or otherwise. I turned on those around me, regularly telling my friends and family visiting me to f-off, treating nurses and doctors like crap and generally just not co-operating with anything or anyone. I had numerous conversations with my neuropsychologist and part of me expected the men in white coats where going to come and strap me to my bed.

Alas, once I accepted that these 'black and white' feelings were actually entirely 'normal' and that my mind and body were just dealing with things, I finally felt like things were just going to be all right. I had lost my leg, but I was more scared of losing my mind. After about a month of limited progress in physio, almost overnight I reacquired my thirst for recovery and spent hours each day in the physio gym channelling all my energy on getting myself better. It wasn't long before I was walking with a PPAM Aid (the best feeling in the world) and I then had my stump cast for my first prosthetic leg.

First Leg

I was fitted with my first prosthetic leg about two weeks before being discharged from hospital. It's an NHS Multiflex leg and quite basic looking, but it does the job. Initially, the pain was extraordinary, but somehow everything just fell into place and I was managing to walk without crutches or sticks within about two weeks of being home. I can now run (but my gait is awful) and can go up and down stairs quickly and without pain.

In the Real World

It wasn't too long before the harsh reality of what had happened was sinking in. And, of course, it's still 'sinking in' a mere 5 months post amputation! I was attending out-patient physio but after having my entire day planned for me in hospital, I didn't really have much to do. I couldn't go back to work because I was still on 80mg Oxycontin twice a day (and rest) and I was still in pain. My friends and family were there for me but once again I found myself withdrawing. I do remember feeling 'proud' of my new leg and showing everyone and anyone in the hospital, but out in the real world, I felt a bit like a freak show. I felt ashamed of the very thing that was allowing me to live a 'normal' life! I was discharged with about two weeks of medication and was to see my GP for more. It didn't take long before I was taking much more painkillers than I should have been. It made my head warm and fuzzy. I also started binge eating badly - totally unlike my normal toned body self! To compound matters even further, one of my closest friends suddenly died in his flat. We were in business together - both lawyers - so not only had I lost a close friend, I had lost my business. The grief I experienced before with my leg is nothing compared to the grief I have for him. In an odd way, his death made the decision of me going back to work much easier! I doubt that I'll now return to law, instead I might take up something new...when I'm ready.

G's death was the real foot up the backside I needed. If I was winding up the business, then I'd be sure to put all my efforts into becoming the new Oscar Pistorius.Here and Now I've been going to the gym three times a week since November. I'll never be the new Oscar Pistorius, but I'm making sure I'm doing everything I can to give the new me a good shot. I can run (badly) on the treadmill but not for too long and I also go swimming every week with my local limbless association. I don't think I'll ever go back to climbing, but I'll never say never. I get a new socket on Friday and I cannot wait. My stump (I hate that word) has decreased in size from 34cm distal circumference to 28cm. Is this normal? Whenever I ask the "Is this normal?" question I usually get the "everyone is unique" response. And it does my head in! I'll be getting a running leg and an every day leg in January. I'm hoping that the running leg will be a bladed kind, but I'll get what I'm given, I suppose. Thank God for the NHS.


I took my very last dose of Oxycontin last Thursday and my head is much more clear. My current meds are: Tramadol (Ultram) 50mg as required; Gabapentin (Neurontin) 300mg twice a day, 600mg at night; Amitryptiline (Elavil) 50mg at night; Lithium 1000mg at night (for bipolar disorder, not pain); and Venlafaxine (Effexor) 225mg a day (for both bipolar and pain). For some reason my phantom pain is much worse despite the bone pain being much better?It might be completely unrelated, but I've also just been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid (which perhaps accounts for the amount of energy I've had recently?).

Anyway, sorry for the novel!

Take care

K x


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Welcome, K, and the "novel" is just fine! Actually, it's a really good overview of how one goes about adjusting to life as an amputee...and in a year or so, you might find yourself looking back at this post and marveling at how "strange" all of this seemed to you at the time.

Quick answer to your question about your incredible shrinking stump: it's really pretty normal. My prosthetist pulled my first socket out of storage about five years into my amp-dom, and it was so huge that I could easily have stacked up a couple more sockets in it, rather like those Russian dolls.

I actually chose my amputation, following several attempts to repair a badly fractured foot. Because I "chose" to lose my leg, I think I probably had less "despair" than someone who lost a limb suddenly as the result of an accident. But I did go through a mourning period for my leg, to the point where I actually visualized a funeral for it. Strangely enough, that helped!

By the way, you may decide to climb again at some point in the future, and it's entirely likely that you'll be able to do it. As you learned during your rehab stay, once you set your mind to something, you'll figure out a way to do it!

So go ahead and look around here, ask any questions that pop into your head, and accept and offer support as possible...while I'm sorry that you had to find us, it's good to have you here!

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Welcome to the forum K. Like Cheryl I enjoyed reading your story and think you should carry on your journal of events cause it will not only be good for you to look back on in the future but will also help other new young amputees who might not post on here but might look in and read postings.

As Cheryl has said the shrinking is pretty normal, it may go on for a year or so and the more active you are the quicker it will be, but always I find sockets still get loose, whether they stretch or not I don't know but even years down the line its usually smaller size sockets that I have to get made, though it is nowhere near as frequent as was in the initial stages. I think the pain you speak about will also probably gradually go too, I think the nerve type pains take about nine months to a year to settle down but everyone is different, long term though I haven't needed medication other than the odd paracetomol. Probably most of us experience low levels of nerve pain that might flare up just now and again for whatever reason, and painless phantom sensations remain, but the raw initial type of nerve pain does gradually subside, the bone pain that you mention could possibly be because you have shrunk down in your prosthesis and maybe hitting the bottom of the socket, if you are wearing socks you can cut a sock in half, turn it inside out so you have the elasticated bit just below the knee and this might lift you off the end of your stump, sometimes the prosthetist will put a half leather lining in the socket round the knee bit and this does the same thing in lifting you off the bottom.

I wish you well for the future, I think you will probably find the first year is probably the hardest, things will be different and you will find new ways of doing things but once you get your head around everything it will all become very normal. I myself am now forty odd years on and am both legs below the knee so to me its all pretty normal and i am still very much enjoying life and doing what I want to do and I am sure things will pan out well for you too.

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Welcome K. Glad that you're getting on with your life. It's a process, but well worth it.

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Hi K.

Welcome to the Forum! Thanks for sharing your story and the beginning of a new journey. For me the first year was a little tough, but I am back to living life to the full. At the Amputee Coalition I was able to get back to climbing again--one of my goals that my first physical therapist thought was very crazy and impossible.

There are lots of very good here and we are more than willing to answer any question and hear your journey.

Peace, Beth Marie

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Hi and welcome.

For me amputation was a planned thing (due to deformity) so I never had to deal with the mental issues in the same way. Phsically things do settle down - I had about four legs in the first year but now each leg lasts for ages and wears out rather than is the wrong size. It is amazing what you can do when you really want to- in the past I have had all sorts of unsuitable hobbies including ice skating but now I just stick to Tae Kwon Do and by means of a lot of hard work (training harder and for longer than my peers) I have managed to attain 2nd Dan Black Belt and I am a qualified instructor. It is not always easy but if you really want it you will find a way.


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