Yvonne was one of the first survivors to use our Rehabilitation at Home service during the lockdown in 2020. Here is her story.
It was December 2018 when Yvonne went for a walk with her 2 grandchildren. As she stopped to bend down and pick up her small grandson, Yvonne tripped and they both fell over, her grandson’s head was cut and was bleeding and Yvonne could feel her knee hurting, but she was more concerned about getting some help for the toddler. She rushed him to her local doctor who dressed the wound and sent him to A&E with his mum. Yvonne went home and had a look at her own injuries, she had a graze to her knee, it was painful but didn’t look too bad, she cleaned it, bandaged it up and didn’t think anything more about it. Today, that’s the last thing she remembers.
The next day her knee felt ok but by the evening it was really hurting, Yvonne skipped the Christmas party she was supposed to go to and went to bed. During the night she felt worse and started to throw up. Early in the morning her husband took her to A&E, the doctors started running tests, as the day went on her leg started looking worse, it became black and blistered. According to Yvonne’s husband the doctors grew increasingly concerned and at about 3pm he was given the devastating news that Yvonne had Necrotising Fasciitis. Yvonne was rushed into surgery and doctors began a race against time to remove the infected tissue from her leg and save her life.
Yvonne stayed on life support for 3 days while the doctors operated a further 2 times, not only saving her life but also her leg and foot. By Monday, a week after the accident, Yvonne’s condition was stable and preparations began to move her, still sedated, to Stoke Mandeville specialist burns hospital. There, Yvonne had more skin graft operations and was slowly, just before Christmas, brought out of sedation and moved to the burns ward. Yvonne received specialist treatment from burns nurses & physiotherapists who worked to manage her pain and help her to cope with the physical impact of the changes to her leg. ‘My leg didn’t look like my own, it looked like a piece of meat, three quarters of the leg was damaged and the wounds were really deep, they had to cut all of the infection away and that left deep scarring, it was truly shocking’.
Finally, after 2 long months in hospital, at the start of February, Yvonne went home. As she began living with her injuries, starting to walk again and dealing with everyday challenges such as climbing the stairs, the long term, lasting impact of the changes to Yvonne’s life truly hit home. ‘After a few months of being at home, I realised that there wasn’t suddenly going to be a huge improvement, that my shoes wouldn’t fit again in 6 months, that I would have to learn to drive again using my left leg. It suddenly all sunk in and that’s when I became upset, really upset about the new reality of life’.
It was in November 2019 that Yvonne came in to contact with the Katie Piper Foundation and started looking into the KPF Rehabilitation Centre. The Centre supports the rehabilitation of those with severe scarring from Necrotising Fasciitis as well from burns, Yvonne started the process of admittance and had her assessment day in February 2020. She was due to come into the Centre just at the start of lockdown.
As soon as lockdown started the residential Rehabilitation Centre (part of Fairfield private Hospital) closed and our services were switched to virtual delivery. Yvonne’s rehabilitation support consisted of the elements of the programme that are suitable for online delivery and which targeted her specific concerns. Yvonne was worried how she would deal with being isolated in lockdown and the affect this would have on her confidence. She saw our psychotherapist, Jay, who worked with her to improve her mental health, they worked on acceptance and helping Yvonne to come to terms with what had happened to her, she made a significant step forward as she finally felt able to clear out the shoes from before her accident, accepting that she couldn’t wear them again. With this support she feels she has dealt with lockdown well, taking it in her stride as another of the big changes she has been through in the last 2 years.
Yvonne also worked with Kay, our specialist physiotherapist, who showed her safe home physiotherapy techniques. The exercises focused on helping her body feel less restricted, on easing the constriction around her knee, making going up and downstairs less painful and easing out her quad muscles so she can walk more easily and keep improving her fitness levels. ‘Everything takes so much effort, my foot gets swollen, my leg hurts, I get so tired, I do so much less each day than I did before the accident, but Kay has helped, she has helped me to manage all the niggles, the aches and pains and that makes a difference. I feel like my rehabilitation has continued despite lockdown and that has had a positive impact on my life’.
Yvonne is building on her time spent in the virtual Rehabilitation Centre, she has gone from strength to strength psychologically and has been able to put together a fitness activity schedule focused on improving her overall fitness independently at home. She is still looking forward to one day entering the residential Rehabilitation Centre and the intensive, daily support and encouragement the programme provides. She can’t cycle at the moment, worried about tearing the skin grafts and is hoping that some time at the Centre might help her to find a way of safely getting back on her bike in what will be another big step forward on her rehabilitation journey.