Young woman has her leg amputated after minor accident leaves her in constant pain – Wales Online
A woman decided to have her leg amputated after a kayaking accident left her in constant pain.
Helena Stone, 22, developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) after she was involved in a kayaking accident six years ago, and suffered such agony she was unable to walk.
But now after successful surgery, she hopes one day she can follow her dream and represent the country at the Paralympic Games.
Helena suffered from CRPS for years after a relatively minor accident while kayaking in Wales when she was 16. Although it is rare, she is not the first person to speak out about suffering with it. Promising young lawyer Victoria Abbott-Fleming revealed how she woke up one day to find her leg crawling with maggots after getting a small cut and minor bruising in a fall.
Helena said: “My foot got caught in the water and my leg got pulled. I knew it was bad enough that I went to A+E, but I thought it was temporary. They sent me away on crutches and said I’d be fine in two weeks. The pain never went away. I’ve not become disabled by chopping the leg off, I’ve become enabled by it.”
Spinal injections, Ketamine infusions and regular intensive physiotherapy and psychotherapy followed for the next several years, but nothing could take the pain away.
Helena said: “It was like someone had tied a burning barbed wire round my leg and pulled it tight. It was so overwhelming.
“I would always have a baseline level of pain, but anything could trigger it to become unbearable. It wasn’t just a simple knock or bash. Changes in air pressure could set it off. People didn’t want to sit next to me in case they brushed it. I couldn’t even have a shower without breaking down.”
In January, Helena got to the point when she got serious about wanting her leg amputated.
The NHS does not give or advise amputation for CRPS as it could potentially make it worse, so she decided to have it done privately.
She said: “You get to a point where you’re so desperate. You just think, how much worse can it get? It was worth taking that risk. I knew ultimately the leg wouldn’t be there to ulcerate and get bashed.
“It was also a mental health decision. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal but I had days or weeks where I just couldn’t be bothered. I’m one of the lucky ones. They call it the suicide disease in America. If people don’t have a support network, they crumble.”
Helena, from Islington, north London, had her right leg amputated at the Princess Grace Hospital in Marylebone on September 3 and described waking up as like a “dream”.
She said: “It’s been amazing. It’s the dream scenario. I was telling the doctors the nerve pain was gone. Any question they asked me, I kept saying the CRPS was gone. I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t say anything else.”
Her recovery has been going very well and she’s already able to get around using crutches. Helena will go to the prosthetic rehab centre to start relearning how to walk. She will be mentored by gold medallist Andy Lewis, who won the Paratriathlon in Rio 2016.
She said: “If I was given the opportunity to go for that Paralympics, I’m not going to say no. But most of all, I just can’t wait to start running and kayaking again. The accident hasn’t changed how I see kayaking. It’s a big part of my identity and I still love it.”
As well as becoming an athlete, Helena also wants to raise money for CPRS charities.
She added: “Stay strong and speak up for yourself. If you are considering amputation, that’s completely normal but don’t underestimate the magnitude of the decision.
“I wouldn’t want someone to look at me, who’s fine now, and make the decision to lose their limb. There is no known cure. I might not be in pain right now, but tomorrow it could come back somewhere else.”