Never Give Up! – Suzi Unsworth’s Story
My name is Suzannah Unsworth (Suzi) and on the 30th April 2012 I lost my left leg above the knee. This is my story!
My name is Suzannah Unsworth (Suzi) and on the 30th April 2012 I lost my left leg above the knee.
I didn't have any choice in the matter, because the articulated lorry driver who was busy overtaking the car in front, ran me over on my bicycle. My left leg wrapped around one of the wheels, and you can imagine the rest…
My right foot also got run over, and squashed. I called it my hobbit foot for a while as it was too wide to fit into any of my shoes. Thankfully I only suffered minor bruising to my upper body, but my bike was a write off! I'd just got new tires on it too!
If you want to learn more about my journey (and find gruesome detail), you can read all about it on my blog. Be warned, there are pictures of my leg straight after the accident (or what was left of it) so don't look whilst eating.
Because of the rush of adrenalin I didn't get knocked out or faint, and when I landed on the road (Manchester Rd in Bradford if you're interested) I was left holding what was left of my leg and in agony.
All I could do was scream, breath in, scream out. The car behind me stopped and two ladies got out. One held my bloody hand whilst the other called the ambulance.
I don't remember this, but I do remember the road worker (Martin Copley) running over and kneeling over me and telling me everything was going to be ok. My orange man (Not that he had a teak tan, his work clothes were bright orange) He told me to let go of my leg and hold on to him. I did so bloodying his top, all the while screaming.
Then an ambulance turned up, which seemed like ages but was only minutes, and bless them the ambulance lady lent over me and said 'you're going to be okay love what's your name and address?’
I screamed 'knock me out!' and then more controlled stuttered ‘Sue’.
However, they did knock me out and then air lifted me to Leeds General Infirmary. I always wanted to have a go in a helicopter, it’s just a shame I was unconscious throughout my ride!
Apparently I was on life support for 3 days and so high on meds I don't recall the first month. I also suffered from a reaction to the meds and hallucinated and became paranoid thinking the nurses had done things to me. Safe to say I did not enjoy my stay in hospital.
I know it's not a hotel, and the only reason you are there is because something is wrong. But I am a control freak and for the first time in my life I couldn't even go to the toilet without assistance.
Speaking of which I hated those cardboard bedpans! When I had finally (with the aid of a nurse) got into the yoga position, aka peeing legless patient, my pee bounced off the bottom of the pan and hit the sheets. Having a number two was the most embarrassing of all.
My parents came to visit every day, except those days when my mood was really low and I didn't want to see anyone. I am the type of person who always thinks of others rather than myself, which I should have been doing at the time, but when I was conscious enough I always put on a brave face, and enquired about the health of the others in the beds around me.
These changed over the 3 months I was in hospital, most coming and going with broken bones. But the worst time, and now looking back the funniest time, was when accompanied by dementia patients.
My bed was in the right corner, across from me was a lady who even those she had broken her hip kept trying to get out of bed and take her clothes off. Next to her was a lady who kept screaming 'Nurse, nurse where am I'. All the time, day and night, and finally had to be moved into isolation! You could still hear her on a night down the corridor through a thick door.
Then there was the lady next to me, she also had a fall and insisted on amassing a large pillow collection that she was never satisfied with. On a night she liked to get her purse out and tell us all what was in there item by item taking it out then putting it back.
I of course felt sorry for them, my own gran had dementia, but I wasn't getting any sleep and was exhausted. By the end of the 3 months I was willing to bum shuffle my way out of there!
I go into more detail on my blog about how I felt emotionally during my stay. I talk about how I felt like I had to be strong, especially for my parents. And how I once couldn't hold it in anymore and got in a wheelchair and snuck into a prayer room and had a really big cry.
I still have days now where I just want to be left alone, and I go and have a cry, but they are getting less and less and in my mind the reason has changed too. Back then I was grieving for the loss of my leg. Now it's more of frustration at yet another operation and set back.
I didn't want to go see a professional psychiatrist as I felt that even though they have all the qualifications, they hadn't been through what I had been through and couldn't know what to say to make me feel better. I knew I had to deal with it on my own and in my own way. That's why I started my blog. My therapy was, and still is, helping others. If I can make a good thing out of a bad situation then that’s great!
What also helped was having something to focus on, for me this was my dogs. My old terrier cross Rags, and my loopy German Sheppard cross Lily. Whenever I would cry, Lily would lick my face and make me smile. Rags knew I wasn't well and never left my side, always there for a hug.
If you don't have a distraction and you feel yourself having dark thoughts, then I would highly recommend a dog. It’s great because I have to leave the house daily to 'walk' them. I put their leash over my mobility scooter rails and away we go.
Years after my case had finished, my solicitor at Minster Law case still kept in touch with me. They often dropped me a line asking how I was, and in one meeting we decided to set up a website called ‘Reconnect’ for people who had lost a limb. Sort of like a central hub for all amputees. It has a forum, items for sale, and places that are disability friendly etc. The site is currently being built.
It's now been 4 and half years since my accident, in that time I have had 13 operations. They range from skin grafts, my femur being shortened, various road debris being taken out of my stump, skin grafts on my right foot, my toes pinned, and then the last three toe ends amputated.
My latest operation was to have my stump sliced open at the back and two neuromas (nerve bundles) taken from the end and shoved down into my normal skin where I have 'padding' to stop the pain and whilst the surgeon was there he thought he would shorten my sciatic nerve too! Thanks for that, nothing like intense pins and needles and pain spasms to interrupt a good night's sleep!
Over time since my accident I put on weight, it was to be expected but it really didn't help my mood. I had gone from cycling 12 miles to work every day to sitting on my backside drinking coca cola and being fed mums home helpings.
Now since getting back to my own home I have been able to come up with an exercise routine for someone with only one leg and started eating healthy. To date I have lost 2 stone!
I've gone through 4 sockets (the top part of the prosthetic leg, the part that looks and feels like an upside down traffic cone) I have invented numerous ways of making these comfortable and to stay in place. But nothing stops the sweat pooling in the bottom of your inner liner in summer, nice.
I've also had 4 leg bottom parts. The first was just a metal pole with a foot on the end. Then I asked for foam covering over my leg and they did make it shaped like my real leg. (There’s a picture in my blog of me wearing it.) At this stage I was still in denial and just wanted my leg back. But the foam was spongy and restricted the movement of my leg and split when I knelt down.
I was then given a hydraulic leg. I don't know the make and model of these things. This one had better function and freedom of movement, and then I went private and got my current leg from P.A.C.E. It’s waterproof and looks robotic and rather cool. By the time I received this leg I had accepted I had lost my leg I was never going to get it back. What I had to get was something that gave me as close to the same function of a leg. Even the ability to walk was great.
But I have yet to walk for any length of time with it without having another operation. I still walk with a stick. But that was to relieve the pressure of pain I was feeling from the trapped nerves and bits of road debris etc. The fear of tripping and falling is still there, but I have progressed from two crutches to two walking sticks to one stick. I am hoping this will be the last operation on my leg and I can finally start to walk normally.
So that's a bit of my story, I am writing this sat in my pram (wheelchair) still recovering from my last operation. High on pain killers.
Yes you will have bad days and some good, and the only advice I can give you is to take each hour at a time. Hours make days, then weeks, then years. Get something to distract you from your injury. Get a pet, or start a hobby. In a moment of madness I even decided to start up my own business selling tea!
But perhaps the most important advice of all,