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Debbie’s story

Debbie's journey started with a chesty cough leading to her eventually having her left leg amputated. Here's her story.
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I have now been successful in learning how to run again and for more information about amputee running and my journey, visit my website,

I am 41 years old and married to Tony. We have two daughters aged 16 and 12. I have always been fit and healthy and for a couple of years, a runner. On my 41st birthday, in March of this year, I awoke with quite a nasty chesty cough. I also felt quite fatigued and generally unwell. We cancelled my birthday meal as I did not feel up to celebrating. I spent the weekend in bed and on Monday went to my surgery. The doctor I saw said I had a chest infection and advised paracetamol and ibuprofen. I did not make any improvement and two days later I began to experience a cramp-like pain in my right calf. It got progressively worse and nothing would ease it.

I went back to my surgery and saw the same doctor. She provisionally diagnosed DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and advised me to go to the assessment ward at my local hospital. The pain was getting worse and worse and I just wanted it to stop. I had some blood taken and a doctor came to speak to me when I was shown to a bed. That was the last thing I remember until 12 days later.

Apparently, the day after my admission, still undiagnosed, I began to go into toxic shock as the toxins began to affect my major organs and my blood pressure dropped to zero. Doctors and other medical staff began to frantically try to get lines into my body and things looked very grim. I was taken down to theatre immediately and my leg cut open and it was then that the diagnosis was changed from DVT to NF. My leg was debrided of infected tissue and I was put in a morphine-induced coma on ICU. Small patches of black tissue on my fingers and trunk were a concern and doctors would only tell my family I had a small chance of survival.

In the early hours of the next morning, my family was contacted as I had started to deteriorate and I had needed resuscitation after going into cardiac arrest. It looked unlikely that I would survive the night. Fortunately, when they arrived I had started to improve slightly. Over the next 10 days I had many more trips to theatre for more debridement of the infected tissue on my leg, but all this time on kidney dialysis and on a ventilator. The smaller patches cleared up from the high dosage of antibiotics.

I was brought round, confused and unable to comprehend what I was told. My leg was so badly affected and in such a bad way that the doctors needed me to make the decision about what to do about it’s future. It was basically just bone between my knee and ankle.

I was told I could have reconstructive surgery which would involve numerous operations, with no guarantees at the end of it, and I would have to walk with a stick, or, amputation above the knee and be fitted with a prosthetic leg. Whilst I was considering my options, 4 days later, after more debridement, I took a turn for the worse again and the critical care team were rushed to my bed as I could not breathe and my heart rate doubled. It was very frightening. I spent the next 4 days in HDU on high doses of oxygen and antibiotics, which were a continuation from the diagnosis.

A decision needed to be made. I made it, and on Easter Sunday I signed the consent form to have my right leg amputated above the knee. The next morning I was wheeled to theatre for the final time to have the amputation carried out.

When I came round, a couple of hours later, although a bit groggy, I felt so much better than I had for ages. Tony, my husband, remarked on how much better I looked already. I knew then that I had made the right decision. I was able to go onto a side room on a main ward that evening and I remained in hospital for a further 3 weeks until my discharge. From the amputation onwards I made a quick recovery and throughout this summer I have had a leg made for me and have been learning to live with a prosthetic leg. It has not always been easy but challenging. I am back at work – 2 part-time jobs, and at my gym once a week. In the future I am hoping to have a running leg made and go back to running. I will probably require one more operation to tidy up the scars on my leg where it was amputated and skin grafts placed but that will be only minor surgery.

The important thing is, I survived!

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