Joanne is 62 and lives in West Yorkshire with her husband Philip. A retired bank worker and grandmother of seven, Joanne’s problems with her leg started last summer when an insect bite turned into something much more serious:
“It was a summer’s evening and I was watching a band play in a pub beer garden. I had trousers on but I felt something bite me on the back of my left calf. I got home and found this squashed spider in my trouser and three bites on my leg”
Two of the bites healed within a few days but the third – which happened to be on a varicose vein – was not healing and began weeping. After two weeks, Joanne went to her GP who prescribed a course of antibiotics.
“I completed the course of antibiotics but it still wasn’t right. The bite had healed on the surface but it was black and swollen underneath. I went back to the GP who explained that the bite had turned into a small clot and put me on another course of antibiotics. Then one day, I was playing with my grandchildren and knocked my leg on a chair. The whole black scab fell off and I was left with a half-inch hole on my leg”
Joanne started treating the open wound herself at home with dressings and was put on several further courses of antibiotics. This carried on for several months until a holiday to Spain led to an unexpected diagnosis.
“We had a 3-month trip to Spain planned in January 2020, five months after the spider bite that started it all. The wound still hadn’t healed so the GP surgery gave me dressings and another course of antibiotics to take with me but as soon as I got to Spain it just started oozing and wouldn’t stop. I knew I had to go and see the doctor in Spain”
The local doctor referred Joanne to the nurse triage team who scrubbed the wound and dressed her leg in compression bandages. It was this same Spanish doctor who gave Joanne the correct diagnosis of a leg ulcer.
“This was the first time I’d been told that what I actually had was a leg ulcer. I didn’t know what a leg ulcer was or what it looked like. I’d spent months being told it was an infection and being given antibiotics rather than dressings. I couldn’t believe that it took a holiday to Spain to get diagnosed”
Joanne returned to the UK in April where she continues with twice weekly dressings and compression bandaging at her local clinic. At the moment, she is experiencing slow healing:
“I have compression bandaging from my left knee right down to my toes. The compression is helping bring the swelling to the surface but I still have a hole in my leg and I can’t see any sign of that closing up yet. It really limits what I can do. I can’t shower properly. I can’t wear normal shoes. We took the grandchildren to the coast recently but I couldn’t go paddling in the sea with them. I just want to be able to put my shorts and sandals back on again and get back to normal.”
Joanne would like to see earlier diagnosis and better support for people with leg ulcers:
“My advice to anyone who has a bite or any sort of cut that’s not healing is to not wait and to push to get the right treatment. If I’d known what a leg ulcer looked like I would have known that that’s what I had and I would have pushed for different treatment. I just think if it had been dressed properly within those first few week, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now.”
Need to know more?
Find out more about leg ulcers including what to look out for
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 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.
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.
020 7205 7151
Find out more on The Circulation Foundation website
Tissue Viability Society (TVS) aims to provide expertise in wound management to all healthcare professionals.
0845 527 6651
Find out more on the Tissue Viability Society 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.
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