Angie, 57 lives in Leyland with her partner Dave. A keen sportswoman and outdoors enthusiast, Angie went from skippering her own sailing boat to being faced with the terrifying prospect of losing her leg – all because of a seemingly common set of symptoms that many people ignore.
“All my life I’ve been into the outdoors and just generally just being as active as I can be. Running, karate, circuit training, mountaineering – I was into it all. I’m passionate about sailing too and I used to crew on a racing yacht in the River Mersey. I even skippered an all-female crew around the Ionian Islands. Skiing is also a big love of mine, and my partner and I are lucky enough to be able to go skiing a few times a year”
It was on the return home from a ski trip last Christmas that Angie first noticed the symptoms that turned out to be the start of a nightmarish health episode:
“We got back from skiing on the 1st of January this year and I went back to work the following day. It was when I was at work that I noticed that my left leg was cold from the knee down. I thought it was a bit strange but just put it down to it being winter and having been sat on a cold coach on the way back to the airport from the Alps a few days before
“The next day at work, my left leg was still cold. I was sat next to a radiator, but my leg just couldn’t get warm. I drove home from work, and my calf was in agony. Every time I put my foot on the clutch, my leg was hurting me. I went to bed but I woke up at 1am that morning in immense pain. I took some paracetamol and hoped that it would just go away, but the next morning I got up and couldn’t walk more than 50 metres without excruciating pain. My foot had also started to turn white”
Angie didn’t know it at the time, but these symptoms were actually the signs of complications from a popliteal artery aneurysm – a potentially catastrophic leg condition that can cause a sudden lack of blood to the lower leg and foot, and lead to amputation.
“My partner wanted me to go to A&E but I didn’t want to be a nuisance so we went to the walk-in centre instead. They told me to get an appointment with my GP and ask for an urgent referral to a vascular consultant, which I did. I saw the consultant on the 8th of January who said my symptoms were probably Raynaud’s disease brought on by having been on holiday somewhere cold
“I went home but my symptoms just got worse and worse over the next two weeks until I could barely walk. I pleaded with the consultant to send me for a scan, but there were no appointments available until the end of February. In desperation, I phoned the Radiology Department and managed to get a cancelation for Friday 17th January. They carried out the scan and told me to wait until my scheduled appointment the following week to get the results, but in that time the pain had got so bad that I took myself to A&E. It was there that I was told that I had a popliteal arterial aneurysm and needed urgent surgery.”
Angie was admitted to hospital and had major vascular surgery three days later. The surgery was successful but it was an frightening experience for Angie:
“I was the only patient on the ward who still had both their legs. There was a woman around the same age as me in the bed next to mine who’d gone down for surgery before me. I heard the surgeon come up and say that the surgery hadn’t been successful and that her leg would have to be amputated. I was just sat there listening to this. I have never been so scared in all my life”
Angie had herself only been a few hours away from losing her leg:
“I didn’t know it at the time but talking to some of the ward staff afterwards I was told that I’d only been about five hours away from losing my leg. The longer your foot is white, the greater the chance is of losing your leg because of the lack of blood supply. If the surgery had been left any longer, I’m not sure where I would be now.”
Almost six months on from the surgery, Angie is slowly recovering from the significant trauma to her leg:
“The graft on my leg is healing, though I still need to go for regular scans to make sure it hasn’t blocked. My leg swells up every day because the drainage system in my leg was affected by the surgery. I can’t bend my leg fully either, which makes it really hard for me to get in and out of cars. I’m doing all I can to get the strength and movement back, but I don’t think my leg will ever be back to normal.”
Angie’s experience has made her and her partner Dave determined to make more people aware of just how important leg and foot health is:
“Everyone knows about looking after their heart or knows that they shouldn’t smoke because of the risk of getting lung cancer but no one thinks about their legs or feet. There are so many people whose feet are in a bad condition and they don’t realise that it can go to the leg and you can end up losing them. It’s why I got in touch with the Legs Matter campaign. I want to do anything I can to make people aware of just how important your leg and foot health is.”
Having come so close to losing one of her legs, Angie’s overall feeling now is one of gratitude:
“The whole experience has just made me really appreciate my two legs. I was in the shop at the weekend and I saw a teenager with two prosthetic legs and I just thought ‘crikey – that could have been me’. It could still be me in the future. I just think that if you’ve got your two legs, just look after them. They matter so much”
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in theses films, the following organisations may be able to provide help and advice.
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.
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.
NHS Choices the official NHS website, which provides vital information and support about leg and foot signs and other symptoms.
Call 111 - for non-emergency medical advice
Find out more on the NHS Choices website
The Society of Vascular Nurses The Society of Vascular Nurses (SVN). The SVN is a professional, membership organisation for vascular nurses throughout the UK who provide optimal care for vascular diseases. Through their culture of sharing, they offer excellence in clinical practice, education, research and professional networking in order to strive for optimal care for patients with vascular disease.
British Heart Foundation The British Heart Foundation were founded in 1961 by a group of medical professionals wanting to fund extra research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and circulatory disease. Today they are the nation's heart charity and the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research.
0300 330 3322
Find out more on the British Heart Foundation website
Society of Tissue Viability (The Society of Tissue Viability) aims to provide expertise in wound management to all healthcare professionals.
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