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Woman had her leg amputated after her ingrown toenail became infected

She never lost her smile

A keen runner lost her leg after an ingrown toenail lead to a rare bone infection.

Single mum Heather Satchwell, 27, rubbed the big toenail of her right foot while training for a charity 5km run in February 2015 – causing an ingrown nail.

Because the mum-of-one has type one diabetes and was aware of the risks she went straight to hospital, but had to wait seven months for the nail to be removed.

Former police and council CCTV worker Heather, who previously ran two to three times a week, had her big toe amputated in June 2016 but by this point gangrene had already spread and become osteomyelitis – a rare infection of the bone.

The mum was forced to have her right leg amputated below the knee in June last 2018 as doctors battled to control the infection, before a final further amputation in February this year.

Heather, from Newhall, Derbs, must now rely on a prosthetic leg and wheelchair to get around and is fundraising for a disability-friendly garden space so she can play with daughter Gia, six, outdoors.

She said, ‘Because of my diabetes, I had neuropathy in my foot, which causes loss of feeling. After training for a 5km charity race, I got a rub on my big toe from my trainer. I had always been told as a diabetic you have to be careful with your feet so as soon as the ingrown toenail went red I went to hospital. I was given antibiotics but they didn’t work, and because the infection had already spread to the bottom of my leg my toe was amputated. I didn’t want to be in hospital for any length of time because I didn’t want to be away from my daughter, so I went home the same day. But eventually, my surgeon had to tell me if I didn’t get my leg amputated, I wouldn’t be there for Gia at all. I still can’t believe it all happened from an ingrown toenail – even the people at the hospital couldn’t believe it. I never thought this would happen to me – I always took good care of myself. It was very overwhelming to come out of hospital as an amputee, I have great support but I felt I had to be there for Gia, a kid needs her mum. I have made some great friends though this, and if I can talk about my condition that might make it easier for other people to come to terms with theirs.’

The infected toe
The infected toe (Source: Caters)

After each of her gruelling operations, including a six-hour surgery in June last year and another five-hour op this year, Heather left the hospital within days to be back with Gia.

But incredibly the mum, who was diagnosed with diabetes aged 11, said losing her leg was less painful than the trauma of the aftermath.

She was given the news by doctors she would need the full bellow knee amputation last year with just three weeks’ notice and just five days before the surgery had to move into a new home with her daughter because her previous rental property was not wheelchair friendly.

But even when she found a new bungalow, she was housebound for seven months with her bathroom so unsuitable due to problems with the shower she claims social workers told her to consider using swimming pool facilities to wash in.

Heather said, ‘Losing my leg was actually the least painful part of what happened, everything afterwards was worse. Luckily my daughter is very much like me, she won’t break down, but when I can’t get my prosthetic leg on she is housebound. That’s why we wanted to do something with the garden, it’s the size of a park and it would mean the world to be able to play outside with Gia.’

In June this year, Heather became determined to make the garden of her home more accessible to allow her to spend more time outside with Gia, so appealed for help online.

But a man who approached her and offered to fix the garden for free left it dug up and in a terrible state, with the slabs ruined before not returning as anticipated.

Heather was later visited by gardener Hannah Goldsmith, who was heartbroken to hear what had happened and launched a GoFundMe appeal to help transform her garden.

The mum is desperate for a flat surface and ramp so she can get into the garden easily in her wheelchair, as wells as slides and swings for Gia’s friends to play in.

Heather never stopped smiling
Heather never stopped smiling (Source: Caters)

Hannah, 26, a builder, from Burton upon Trent, Staffs, said, ‘Before she knew it, Heather had become an amputee and that is when life started becoming very hard mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. The little things in life became difficult, the things we all take for granted like having a shower or being able to go into her back garden to watch her daughter play like a normal six-year-old should be able to do. All Heather wanted was to be able to make the garden a safe space where Gia could forget about everything going on around her.’

Heather added, ‘We used to be such outdoorsy people, we would have a film night on Saturday but that would be the only night the TV was on. Now, Gia’s on a tablet 24/7  because she won’t go out without me.,She gets invited to children’s parties but can’t go to them, we’d love to have some swings and slides here so she could have people round.’

To donate visit her GoFundMe page. 

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