A Byron Bay woman, who sprained her ankle on a hike and was left in so much pain she begged doctors to amputate her leg, says she now feels “liberated” with her limb gone.
In September 2015 Anita Carden, 51, was hiking at Mt Cook in New Zealand’s South Island when she sprained her ankle.
While the pain was insignificant at first, the next morning she woke up in extreme pain and her ankle turned black, blue and yellow, and was badly swollen.
Two days later, the woman flew back to Australia and went to see her GP who took X-rays and a doppler test which both came back negative.
Over the next couple of weeks her ankle worsened, so she went to a different GP who also turned her away with no diagnosis and said it would get better in a few weeks with rest.
Debilitating pain persisted
Following a few other dead-end appointments, Ms Carden went to another GP who suggested she had complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a poorly understood condition where a person experiences persistent severe and debilitating pain.
She was sent to a pain clinic where she spent the next six months, but her condition spread all the way above her knee.
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After various unsuccessful surgeries such as a bisphosphonate infusion and a lumbar sympathectomy, the pain became so severe she fought doctors to get her leg amputated to alleviate her symptoms.
Amputee feels ‘free’ after leg removed
Now an amputee, Ms Carden said she felt free despite having to learn to walk again.
“After these procedures failed, I had an above knee amputation in June 2018. I requested it and had to fight for it,” she said.
“Doctors don’t want to amputate a limb, so they let people who are at their wits end with this disease just suffer.”
“I pushed and pushed and fought to get them to take my leg off, it was dead and bleeding all the time. The day a surgeon said he’d do it was the best day of my life.”
Ms Carden said the pain had completely gone and she now felt free.
The full-time mum said she had to learn how to walk again, which had been difficult with a hydraulic prosthetic leg, rather than a bionic one.
She is now focusing on the future and becoming active again as she hopes to hike again.
The mum wants to show other amputees that it is possible to get their life back after a life-changing surgery.
“Learning to walk again hasn’t been easy but it’s given me my freedom back. I’m looking forward to going to a bionic later this year which will make walking easier again.
“I wanted to share my story soon after because I felt so liberated after my leg was gone. My life had come to a standstill with CRPS, but amputation gave me my life back.”
Ms Carden said the most difficult thing to overcome was dealing with doctors who would not listen to her when she requested amputation.
“My leg was so bad, I couldn’t live with it, but no one listened to me for some time. To be honest, after I lost my leg my life has been so much easier,” she said.
“I plan to get back to my active life that I had before CRPS. I love hiking and walking and being active, I love being busy with my family. I believe life after amputation can be all those things and more.”