A woman who made the agonising decision to have her leg amputed after decades of pain has been given a new lease of life, thanks to a piece of kit which can help her be even more mobile.
A car accident back in 1977 caused Sandra Staffiero, of Isenberg Way, Hemel Hempstead, decades of pain and complications with her leg, starting with severe arthritis in her ankle.
Several operations to fuse the joint over 2008 and 2009 left her in chronic pain, and she was permanently in a cast or supportive boot.
In September 2011, 57-year-old Sandra made the decision to undergo an elective amputation below her left knee. Speaking of the tough choice, she said: “Seeing other amputees, it came as quite a shock that it could one day be me. It was the worst thing ever, but I have got a great supportive family who have helped me through it.
“I have never regretted it. To be in chronic pain is the worst thing you can imagine in your life.
“But to be an amputee – even in this world of Paralympic glory – is still the hardest thing to deal with. I thought it would be a case of putting on a leg and some shoes and off you go, but it’s not.”
Inspirational Sandra says she has coped with the loss well over three years, but suddenly over Christmas and New Year, she developed crippling blisters on her residual limb.
The active mother of two, who still goes swimming and walking regularly when she is well enough, has even had an operation on her hand because of injuries caused by the strain of using more conventional walking aids such as crutches – so was left housebound for the festive period.
In desperate need of some help to alleviate her situation, Sandra sent a ‘round-robin’ appeal to others via charity Limbcare’s Facebook page.
Incredibly, within days, the organisation got back in touch with Sandra and confirmed they could raise the £200 to purchase her a revolutionary ‘knee walker’ – a scooter-like device which allows her to support her affected leg as she walks around her home.
She said: “I couldn’t wear my prosthetic leg for two weeks, and my house isn’t very wheelchair-friendly, so I was just stuck.
“I had been trapped in a chair for weeks, and it was the first time in three years my sense of wellbeing went right down. I hit rock-bottom. Even now, I still feel like I am getting over that feeling.
“I couldn’t believe it when Limbcare said they could help. The knee-walker will make a fantastic difference. I will be able to move around, and even carry something at the same time.”
Limbcare was set up five years ago by founders and fellow amputees Ray Edwards MBE and Barry Perrin.
Ray, who has been a quad amputee since 1987, said: “Living in an amputee’s body is very weird. It’s like a bereavement. But I wanted to rise above it and use that disability to help others – it’s like deferring the pain. I wanted to put that negative energy to good use and pass on the will to live to others in my position.”
Sandra’s link with the charity has now inspired her, too, to go on and help other amputees. She is in talks with the group to become an ambassador for the charity, and will be based at nearby Stanmore Hospital’s prosthetic rehabilitation unit.
For more about the charity, visit www.limbcare.org or search Limbcare UK on Facebook.