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.
Leom was 35 and living in Birkenhead when during an October night, fire swept through his flat as he slept, he was rescued and taken to Whiston Hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma for 2 months.
When was bought out of sedation, after multiple skin graft operations, 34% of Leom’s body was burned including his face, legs and left arm. He couldn’t talk for weeks and had reccurring episodes panicking that he couldn’t breathe. He stayed in intensive care for a further month before being moved to the specialist burns unit. There Leom worked with the physiotherapist on moving his legs and trying to walk again. He explains how he felt when he looked in the mirror for the first time. ‘It just didn’t look like me any more, the burns were so bad, my face was very scarred and my left hand, it looked like an ugly potato’. The hospital psychologist tried to help Leom come to terms with his injuries, but his poor state of mind at the time meant that he struggled to engage with the process.
After a little over 5 months in hospital, Leom was discharged and returned home, he continued to visit Whiston Hospital as an outpatient and finally after 6 months, the devastating decision was made to amputate his left hand. By now Leom was living in a flat by himself, he was struggling with the motivation to get up in the morning, didn’t go out at all and had no contact with anyone, he even had his food shopping delivered. He decided to get a dog and Duke, a husky cross, soon became Leom’s reason for living and the two became inseparable. Walking Duke gave Leom a reason to leave the house, but even then he kept his cap on all the time, trying to stay hidden away.
Leom came across The Katie Piper Foundation, he started talking to our staff about hair restoration and rehabilitation. Supported by our team, he had several hair transplants to restore not just the hair on his head but his eyebrows and part of his beard and this made a positive change to how he felt. ‘Having my eyebrows restored was a huge thing, I could look in the mirror and I looked more like me again, that was a big confidence boost’. In 2019 he came to stay at the newly opened KPF residential Rehabilitation Centre. This was something he had been considering for some time, but struggling with the thought of leaving Duke and unable to see how anything could make a difference to his life he had been unable to bear the physical and emotional upheaval he felt he would have to go through, ‘I thought that nothing could really help, my life was what it was, I was used to staying at home, to being on my own, what difference could anything really make? ‘.
Eventually Leom made the decision to come and stay for a week, even on the day he was due to come he was still unsure if he would actually make it. Fortunately, he did and once immersed in the intensive rehabilitation programme he began to see immediate benefits. He focused not just on his fitness and the physical aspect of his injuries with our physiotherapists and personal trainers but also on improving his confidence, working with our psychotherapist to strengthen his mental wellbeing. Through our peer support programme Leom met others with facial burns, he talked to them about how they were living their lives and they helped him to see that life didn’t have to be restricted ‘there was a couple of lads with burns, I had never seen anyone else who looked like me. Chatting to them helped me so much, I realised I’m not the only person in the world living with this, it really turned around to how I felt about myself’.
During his time at the Centre, Leom worked hard to regain his independence and to go out again, to meet new people and show his face. One day he went for a walk on his own, he walked for 7 miles even stopping off at the pub for a drink, something he hadn’t done since before the fire. He went to the cinema and out for a meal in a busy restaurant with his team from the Centre, feeling comfortable as part of a group. Bit by bit he began to see that life was there to be lived again and he could carry on regardless of his injuries.
Leom eventually stayed at the Centre for another week. On the day after his return home he took a huge step forward and went to a party, he now has contact with some friends and is rebuilding his social life. Reflecting on his life now he says ‘What The Katie Piper Foundation gave me was incredible, I don’t know where I would be without them, the combination of the hair restoration and the rehabilitation stay had a lasting impact on my confidence, I could see that I could live my life again’.
Now Leom is learning to drive and is looking forward to taking his driving test, another big step forward in his life.
In 2018 Sal was living in the North of England with his wife and teenage son. He had a busy life working as an engineer and loved to spend his weekends cycling and volunteering in the local community. In June he took a trip to Yemen to visit his father and brothers and to catch up with extended family and friends.
After spending a couple of days in the city, Sal and his family decided to make a trip to their home village in the desert. Mindful of the poorly maintained, badly lit roads and army checkpoints, Sal took the drive slowly, chatting with his brothers and young nephew, with the windows down in the warm evening air. In an instant everything changed, Sal remembers seeing headlights coming towards him, hearing a bang as a van crashed and feeling burning as a barrel of acid from the back of the van showered through the open window on to him and his family. Struggling to see and with no water to douse the acid, Sal and his family were put in the back of a taxi. Over the next 2 hours, in agony, they traveled to five hospitals until they found somewhere able to treat their burns on just a very basic level. Sal had severe burns on his face and body. After five days in hospital, with very little support and no specialist burns care, Sal was desperate to get back home and booked himself on to a plane back to the UK. Sal’s wife met him in Jordan and they flew the eight hours back to Manchester together.
Upon arrival at Manchester, Sal was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital, after 2 days he was transferred to the RVI Newcastle and into intensive care where the burns staff battled to save his life. With 37% burns to his body and face and only a scarf to cover his burns whilst in Yemen his wounds were badly infected. Having already lost an ear and much of the sight in one eye, doctors made the heartbreaking decision to remove the other eye to save him from life threatening infection. For the next 9 weeks Sal stayed in intensive care having specialist burns treatment, he had over 10 operations in an attempt to reduce the damage done by the burns. Finally Sal went home and now registered blind, he began facing the realities of a life with severe burns. He learned to walk again, to feed himself and to begin to cope with the trauma of what he had experienced.
In December 2019 Sal came to stay for a month at The Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre. His goal was to improve his fitness and regain his independence. His scars were tight from his skin grafts and he couldn’t move one of his arms much at all, he was also struggling with his confidence and daunted by going out in public on his own. During his rehabilitation month, Sal had regular sessions of physiotherapy and specialist treatments to help ease his scars and improve their feel and texture. He worked with our personal trainers, trying boxing for the first time to improve his freedom of movement and his core strength. He was supported with his well being through therapy and was encouraged and challenged to do things on his own, he began taking trips into the local town on the bus and talking to new people, all the time making small steps towards regaining his independence.
Sal gave his all to his rehabilitation and the staff were there to support him every step of the way, ensuring that his month was spent in the most beneficial way possible. The progress he made was transformational, the staff were amazed at his courage and sheer determination to reclaim his life and become independent again. By the end of his month Sal’s confidence had rocketed and with a renewed optimism for the future he returned home, confident in his ability to start living his life again, ready for what the future could offer him and most importantly back on his bike and cycling again.