Health Stories

Woman loses her leg after cutting it shaving

The nick caused a devastating infection

When Tanya Czernozukow, 43, cut herself shaving, something shocking happened. Here she tells her story in her own words.

As I finished drying my hair in the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of my watch and realised I was late for work.

‘Are you nearly ready?’ my partner Sally, 35, called out.

‘One minute!’ I shouted back, picking up my razor and frantically trying to shave my legs.

But sliding the blade along my right calf, I nicked my skin. ‘Oww!’ I cried, as it started to bleed.

Putting some tissue on it, I expected the cut to heal, but by the following week it had turned into a scab the size of a five-cent coin.

Infected leg
The wound got bigger and wouldn’t heal (Credit: SWNS)

‘You should get that checked,’ Sally said, concerned.

‘I will,’ I said, brushing the idea off.

See, it didn’t really hurt and life got in the way.

It wasn’t until six months later, in October 2014, that I felt a sharp pain in my leg. The next day I saw that the scab had spread and it looked like I had a hole in my right calf.

By the time I got to the doctor after the weekend, my leg was green from my ankle to my thigh and I was sent straight to hospital.

‘What’s wrong with me?’ I cried, struggling to bear the pain.

Tanya Czernozukow lost her leg
In pain, I struggled to ordinary things (Credit: SWNS)

‘It looks like an ulcer,’ I was told.

Kept in hospital for a week, I was given antibiotics and strong painkillers, and the dressings were changed repeatedly.

But over the following months, my leg only got worse. The infected wound would weep through the dressing and it needed changing four times a day.

I went through so many bandages that I started to use pads to stop the leaking.

Sometimes, there was so much fluid oozing out of it, I had to sit with my leg in a plastic bag.

I was in agony too. It was like thousands of needles being stuck into me.

A giant open wound, I smelt of rotting flesh.

For nearly a year, I went back and forth to hospital trying different medications. I was even forced to stop working. In August 2015, I was admitted back into hospital.

‘There is something else we can try called biotherapy,’ the doctor said. ‘We use medicinal maggots to help clear up the wound.’ The thought made my skin crawl, but I was desperate.

They looked like tiny dots in a tea bag. When they were first placed on the wound I hardly noticed them, but within minutes, I felt the insects moving around as they munched on the dead tissue.

It’s like I’m being eaten alive! I thought.

I lay with the maggots on my leg for 26 hours before the pain got too much. Still, the infection ravaged my leg. A giant open wound, I smelt of rotting flesh.

Tanya Czernozukow
I couldn’t take any more (Credit: SWNS)

‘I can’t lose my leg!’ I blurted out, horrified.

Sally suggested we get away, so we booked a weekend by the ocean. But my whole body ached and I was in agony.

The next day, she had to take me back to hospital.

‘Nothing you’ve been doing seems to be working,’ said a doctor, looking at my notes.

‘You don’t have to tell me that,’ I said, rolling my eyes.

‘It could take years to heal, if it heals at all, and there’s not much we can do about the pain,’ he said.

‘There must be something else you can do?’ I begged.

‘We can offer you an amputation,’ he said.

It was the only way to halt the infection and stop the pain.

Tanya Czernozukow
I had to make a difficult choice (Credit: SWNS)

‘I can’t lose my leg!’ I blurted out, horrified.

‘Take some time to think about it,’ he said.

That night I asked Sally what she thought. ‘You need to do what’s right for you,’ she said. What I’d been through was so bad – I couldn’t imagine doing it for another few years.

‘I’m going to do it,’ I said.

So in April 2016, I had my leg removed above the knee.

When I woke up after surgery, Sally and my doctor were standing by my bed. ‘The operation was a success,’ he said.

The unbearable pain was gone – but so was my leg and that was a struggle. I found it difficult to balance and spent most of my days lying down, just like before the operation.

After five long months in hospital I was allowed home.

Tanya Czernozukow
I’ll never shave my legs again (Credit: SWNS)

Sally found a walker at a market and I managed to get around slowly with it. Now, three years on, I can walk easily with the frame and am looking into getting a prosthetic leg fitted and going back to work.

But I’ll never shave my leg again! I still can’t believe it cost me my limb, but I don’t regret the operation.

‘You’re an inspiration,’ people tell me.

‘No I’m not,’ I say.

In the position I was in, I had no other choice but to be strong. I didn’t know I could get through something like this, but now I have, I feel much more confident in myself.

I might have lost my leg, but I’m rocking it! I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. ●

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