Page last updated:
4th June 2023

Living with a venous leg ulcer – Kelly’s story

Kelly's story
Read Kelly's leg ulcer story – “I was housebound for seven years – then pioneering compression therapy gave me my life back"

Charity worker and children’s author Kelly lives in London with her two children aged 23 and 15. Kelly’s problems with her legs started when she was just 16 years old.

“I got a blood clot in my right leg when I was 16. I’d never experienced anything like that before in my life. The pain was agonising. It felt like my leg was a dead weight and was hanging on by a string onto my hip bone. I lived by myself at the time, and I remember dragging myself downstairs to knock on my neighbour’s door to ask them to help me. I was taken to A&E and had a scan which showed that a blood clot was moving into my lungs. If I’d waited any longer, I would have died”

This blood clot was the first of many Kelly would experience in her life and the start of her long and painful journey with multiple leg conditions:

“I’ve had five serious blood clots in total over the years, but I also had superficial vein blood clots around my ankles. The lack of circulation from all these blood clots damaged my veins and I started to get cellulitis. Then, shortly after I’d given birth to my second child, I developed a leg ulcer. This is where things really started to go downhill”

Living with an onset of debilitating venous leg ulcers

Kelly thought that blood clots were a struggle enough, but leg ulcers proved to be even more debilitating:

“Leg ulcers, for me, are so much worse than blood clots. With a blood clot you get that heavy ache in your leg, but with leg ulcers, the pain is so much worse because it comes from the inside, as well as the outside. It feels like there’s little tiny people inside your leg with knives stabbing you or like you’re standing in a pit of fire.”

Leg ulcers also affected Kelly’s ability to walk or to exercise:

“I had leg ulcers on both on my ankles, so it made it really hard for me to manoeuvre my feet to walk. Before my leg ulcers, I was going to the gym and was healthy, but I had to stop that. I couldn’t exercise, so the weight just piled on and made it even harder for my leg to heal. Mentally it’s been a hard time because you isolate yourself as well. You can smell your leg ulcer so you assume everyone else can smell it and so you don’t want to be around people. I was house-bound for seven years, and my two daughters had to become my carers”

Years of failed treatments for venous leg ulcers

After years of failed treatments, Kelly had reached rock bottom:

“No treatment was working. My doctor’s district nurse referred me to a specialist leg clinic in East London. By this point, I could barely walk and needed a wheelchair to get around the clinic, but I was too big to sit in wheelchair. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up”

The clinic experimented with several different approaches to compression therapy:

“They tried different dressings and different ways of wrapping my legs. They also gave me compression stockings and compression leggings that actually fitted me. They really went out of their way to make sure that my leg ulcers got the right kind of treatment and to heal them. My left leg is completely healed now, and my right leg is almost healed. I’m doing everything I can, they’re doing everything they can. And it’s really working.”

Life-changing compression therapy

As a result of this progress, Kelly is now looking at ways that she can get back to things she loves:

“The nurse at the clinic asked me “what would get Kelly back to the Kelly you were before all of this?’. I told her that I wanted to go out cycling with my kids again but explained all the things that were holding me back. She actually got someone round to fix our bikes so that we could go riding together.  I also went and signed up for the gym and started to go to water workouts.”

It’s not just Kelly’s fitness levels that have improved:

“Now I’m like “I can go to the gym – maybe the children can go out on days again?’ It’s also motivated me to get back into my charity work and to write more books. I’ve now organised three free coach trips to the beach for local residents. And my new children’s book – Melissa’s First Day – is being published next month. That is what the right treatment has done for me. It’s given me back my life”

Where’s the harm in that?

Kelly’s story is reminder of how the lack strong compression early on in injury or ulceration can result in harm. A seven-year history tells us that compression used was either non-existent or sub-optimal. There are many reasons why compression is not used. It could be because compression offered is uncomfortable, doesn’t work effectively or patient become disillusioned with the health system and self-managed with dressings only. It is likely that if Kelly had received evidence-based treatment and education to understand the importance of compression therapy, alongside supported self-management then she may not have had to live with severe pain and the life-limiting impact of unhealed leg ulcers.

Want to know more?

Find out more about leg ulcers including what to look out for

Read more about leg ulcers

Other support

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in theses stories, the following organisations may be able to provide help and advice.

NHS Choices the official NHS website, which provides vital information and support about leg and foot signs and other symptoms.

Contact details
Call 111 - for non-emergency medical advice
Find out more on the NHS Choices website

The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation Promoting and supporting community based treatment, health promotion, education and ongoing care for people who are experiencing leg-related problems - including leg ulcers and other wound care issues.

Contact details
01473 749565
Find out more on the Lindsay Leg Club Foundation website

The Circulation Foundation The Circulation Foundation is the UK’s only dedicated vascular charity. They fund and promote research into the causes, treatment and prevention of vascular disease.

Contact details
020 7205 7151
Find out more on The Circulation Foundation website

Society of Tissue Viability (The Society of Tissue Viability) aims to provide expertise in wound management to all healthcare professionals.

Contact details
Find out more on the Society of Tissue Viability website

Mind Mind is the UK’s leading mental health charity. They're there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone you can call or text for free anytime.

Contact details
0300 123 3393 or text 86463
Find out more on the Mind's website

Samaritans Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. Call them free any time, from any phone.

Contact details
116 123
Find out more on the Samaritans' website

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