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19 October 2023

Helping others navigate major trauma - Part two, Coming Home

by Helen Williams


Welcome back to my blog 😊

The first few months after my leg was amputated are quite difficult to remember. What I do remember through, is how absolutely amazing my family, friends and the neighbourhood team were. My friends and family visited or phoned me daily, despite the fact I turned into a very angry person for a while, and really wasn’t very nice to be around. Later I asked why they put up with me. One friend simply said, "we knew it wasn’t really you". This meant so much to me.

My mental health and mood were so affected that, when a mental health nurse visited me, I was so upset. I asked him why I felt so angry. I will always remember him saying "it’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation" and the relief I felt. Learning some techniques to help manage the overwhelming emotions I was feeling was also really useful, such as the stress bucket and a grounding technique.

I really struggled to leave my flat as there wasn’t a lift and I was completely dependent on friends or family to carry my wheelchair down the stairs. I tackled the steps through a fairly elaborate routine, involving my wheelchair and a pouffe to get onto the floor, before descending down and pulling myself back up at the bottom. It was exhausting, but the sense of achievement I felt the first time I managed it was absolutely amazing 😊 I have to admit we had a celebratory pint in a local pub!

I made the decision that come hell or high water I was going to walk again. I’d been seeing the specialists at Seacroft Rehabilitation Centre prior to the amputation, and this continues to this day. During my early recovery I began to walk using a type of device called a PPAM aid. This is like an inflatable prosthetic that cushions your residual limb (or stumpy as like to call her – not very originally though, I’ll grant you) whilst it’s still healing. I then moved onto an actual prosthetic leg, going to physio twice a week for around four or five months.

I was worried I’d be stared at in public, so I asked for a funky design on my prosthetic. I thought I’d give people something to look at. The prosthetist showed lots of different designs and I chose a floral one with butterflies, which my mum jokingly pointed out ‘clashed with all my clothes’. I loved being able to walk again, not matter how wobbly I was, and to be honest still am! My young niece was quite scared of my prosthetic leg, so my mum and I told her that the ‘magic butterflies helped me to walk’, which really helped her to accept it.

In the next blog, I’ll talk about how I’m moving from walking with a prosthetic with two sticks to using a microprocessor knee, which I hope will let me walk with just one stick.

You can find the other blogs Helen has written here >>

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