Woman Diagnosed With Life-Threatening Condition After Developing Infection Following Surgery For Broken Leg
A woman who had her leg amputated after developing sepsis has spoken of her determination not to be defined by her disability.
Helen Way was diagnosed with the life-threatening condition around a month after breaking her leg and undergoing surgery at the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Foundation Trust to have a metal plate inserted.
The 49-year-old of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, had attended a follow up appointment at the Royal United Hospital Bath fracture clinic in which she said she noticed a small hole in her wound. Helen also contacted a GP after she developed sickness, a high fever and pain in her leg. She was prescribed painkillers.
Patient has leg amputated after developing sepsis
As she arrived home from a second fracture clinic outpatient’s appointment, during which a blood test was taken, RUH called Helen and advised her to attend the hospital again urgently. She was admitted to hospital by ambulance. While awaiting assessment her leg ‘exploded’ and a ‘significant’ amount of pus came out of her wound.
During emergency surgery infected tissue was removed from her leg and her wound cleaned out. She underwent several further operations to remove the metal plate along with the infected tissue, knee cartilage and bone until “there was not much leg or knee left”.
After removal of the metalwork, Helen underwent multiple further surgeries and was taken to the intensive care unit with delirium and symptoms of sepsis. This is when the body attacks itself in response to an infection. Helen spent 18 days in the intensive care unit. Due to the sheer number of procedures Helen had undergone, doctors suggested a through knee amputation whilst Helen was in ICU.
Woman who developed sepsis asks lawyers for help
Following her ordeal Helen instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care.
She has now spoken for the first time about how her life has changed and has joined her legal team in supporting Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month.
Expert Opinion“We sadly see many people who have had their world turned upside down by sepsis and who struggle to cope with the impact it has on their everyday life.
“Despite the terrible ordeal Helen and her family have been through, she continues to show bravery and courage as she comes to terms with everything.
“While nothing can make up for what’s happened to Helen, we’re determined to support her by ensuring she has access to the specialist care and therapies she needs to continue her recovery and make the most out of life.
“Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month is important time to reflect on how people can be affected by such issues but also recognise help and support is available.” Elise Burvill - Associate Solicitor
Sepsis: Our client's story
Helen broke her left leg in a fall on 10 November, 2019. She was discharged after 10 days with a leg brace.
A week later during a fracture clinic appointment Helen, a local business owner, asked whether she had popped a stitch as there was a small hole in her wound.
A GP prescribed her painkillers in early December after Helen complained of vomiting, high fever and swelling in her leg. She couldn’t wear her leg brace because of the pain.
On 13 December Helen attended a second fracture clinic appointment where she raised concerns. A blood test was taken. As she arrived home from the appointment the hospital called and informed her to return.
Shortly after arriving by ambulance at hospital Helen was taken for emergency surgery.
Doctors recommend woman has leg amputated
Further operations to remove infected tissue were performed in January 2020 before doctors suggested an amputation.
Helen said: “After I was sent home from hospital after my initial surgery my condition started to get worse. I started experiencing more pain and swelling and started being sick.
“I felt something wasn’t right but I kept attending appointments and asking questions but it seemed that nobody was too concerned.
“When I was told to back to hospital it came as real shock. I hadn’t been there long when my leg just exploded and a significant amount of pus started leaking out of my wound from where I’d had the metal plate fitted.
“After that it seemed to be operation after operation and each time more of where my leg had been infected was removed. After a few months it got to the point where there was not much leg or knee left and it was suggested I undergo an amputation.”
Helen determined 'not to be defined by disability'
Helen added: “Before I broke my leg I was very independent and enjoyed a happy and active life. I loved travelling, walking and gardening but now I struggle to do any of those now because of my condition.
“My house needed to be adapted straight away so I could remain living there and now I’m a lot more reliant my partner, Andy, for support.
“Life is completely different to what it used to be and there has been some difficult times accepting what has happened.
“However, I know nothing can change what I’ve been through, so I’m determined not to be defined by my disability and live as a full a life as I can.
“It’s important that others in a similar situation don’t feel they have to go through it alone. There is a lot of support out there.”
Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month runs throughout April and aims to highlight the impact of such conditions and how those affected are rebuilding their independence. It is supported by a number of charities including LimbPower, Limbless Association and Blesma.
Find out more about our expertise in supporting people following sepsis or amputations at our dedicated medical negligence section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.