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29 September 2023

Helping others navigate major trauma - Part one, the start of my journey

by Helen Williams

Helen Williams landscape crop

I’m Helen, one of Day One's Peer Support Volunteers. Welcome to my blog 😊

I am writing a series of blogs about my experience of major trauma and my recovery journey. I hope that my words can help others navigate the effects major trauma can have on both physical health and mental wellbeing.

My journey started the day I suffered catastrophic injuries leading to the loss of my right leg. It wasn’t a dramatic accident - I fell down three steps…

People who ask what happened to my leg find this hard to believe. To be honest, I don’t blame them! It sounds so unlikely. In fact, a few years later a taxi driver told me "that can’t happen". But it did.

I was taking my dog outside, tripped over him, and fell. One of my neighbours heard me shouting for help and called an ambulance. It seemed very surreal. I asked him to ring my mum and I told her that I thought I might have ‘sprained my leg’ as I couldn’t move it. I’ll always remember the relief I felt when the paramedics appeared around the corner. I’ll be forever grateful to them and my neighbour, who I later learnt was called Adam. What a way to be introduced - but hey, it’s always good to know your neighbours!

Lots of gas and air, and various other pain relievers later, the paramedics told me I’d probably broken my leg in a couple of places. I phoned my friend from the ambulance telling her I’d "joined the broken leg club". This was a bit of a joke amongst my friends at the time, with a few of them having done this.

It was later at the hospital when things didn’t seem quite so amusing to me. The gas and air was wearing off, and when the doctor picked my leg up, it spun round. I started screaming and was taken to resus.

Even at this point, I had no idea how serious it was- I was whatsapping my brother as the doctors were trying to put it back in place. I was taken to a ward where a frame was fitted to my leg and the next few weeks became a bit of a blur. The stress and pain really affected me, to the point where I had no idea where I was.


I had the main operation on my leg a few days later. I’d fractured my tibia which had shattered into several pieces, causing so much damage to the surrounding parts of my leg that the consultant told me he’d "never seen anything like it". I was in surgery for 12 hours. The pain after was terrible. One of the consultants came to see me, and very gently pointed out that I couldn’t move my foot due to the nerve damage. I hadn’t realised this and now the gravity of how, well, knackered my leg was struck me.

I spent 2 months in hospital. My strongest memory of this time though is not the pain or how much my mental health was affected, but how amazing my family & friends were and the kindness the staff & the other patients showed me.

I’d joke with some of the nurses and other patients about having a party, and the night staff would order takeaway for me. They said it was nothing; I don't think they had any idea how much it meant to me. I can’t put into words how much these things helped.


Fast forward a few months, following discharge from hospital and despite the amazing efforts of all the staff involved in my care, the metal collapsed in my knee.

I had a suspected bone infection and the nerve graft didn’t take, which led to footdrop.

It meant that my leg was useless. I couldn’t weight bear on it and it was unlikely I ever would be able to.

My consultant recommended amputation. This was devastating, but I agreed. My right leg was amputated from the knee in October 2019, 2 days before my 40th birthday and just over a year after my accident.

These first months were a blur, but they were just the start of a much longer journey. I had gone from what I had thought was a small accident to having my leg amputated. I had no idea what the future would hold, and I had so many worries as I waited to be discharged from hospital.

Helen will continue her recovery journey in her ongoing blog series. Her next blog will be released in a few weeks – get notified by signing up to our bulletin >>

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