Sue was a full-time business owner, active wife, and mum when a long-term health issue led her to choosing elective amputation. Here, she shares the journey from having a Volunteer Visit to then progressing to becoming a volunteer herself…
My life before my health issues was very busy – after a full-time career in retail management, my husband and I had bought a village shop which had been a dream of ours for some time. Our daughters were beginning to live their own lives, and I was a regular at the gym and exercise classes. But then I began to have issues with my foot.
Initially, I thought it was tendonitis, but what started as simple swelling turned into 11 years of hospital visits. Eventually, I was diagnosed with a rare disease, and discovered I had fractures in both my feet, and had some preventative surgeries.
However, I then got complex regional pain syndrome and ended up in constant pain. Life then became a series of fractures and surgeries, resulting in my quality of life reduced to nothing – not only did I have to take a large amount of pain medication each day, but I could also no longer walk unsupported. It was at this point that I was asked to consider amputation – it was this or live the rest of my life in pain and with reduced mobility. And after 6 months of consideration, I decided to go ahead with amputation in January 2020.
Although I felt I had prepared for life as an amputee, after my operation the reality set in and I became very depressed very quickly. In addition, Covid hit, and I was suddenly very isolated. I could not see a way forward, but thankfully it was at that point I found the LA and a Volunteer Visitor to speak to.
They were able to listen, signpost me to other services, and show empathy and understanding of my feelings. Thanks to them, I was able to move forward and join in with other LA activities and hub chats. I was fitted with my prosthetic limb in Oct 2020 and having had peer support from a VV had made me much more positive about life after limb loss.
I had got so much from the VV service and the LA that I knew I wanted to give back. I knew that if I could help someone the way I was helped, that would be a good outcome.
The VV training meant I could meet more people who also wanted to help, and it also allowed me to reflect on how far I’d come on my own journey.
The VV role means everything to me. I have done quite a few visits and I hope I have helped people to see that there is life after limb loss. It might be a bit different, and it might take a while, but there is.
Peer support is important because nobody can understand what you’ve been through unless they’ve been through it themselves. Volunteer Visitors listen, they signpost, they empathise. And doing the role also helps me.
I want to carry on improving on my own journey and would like to help the LA as much as I can – I feel like I’ve found a second family with the LA which has been wonderful. And I’m back working in our shop, helping to run a successful business.
If you’re thinking about referring into the service or applying to become a VV -just do it. You will get so much back.