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Janet Richards' story

Janet is supporting the Putting Feet First Campaign to make sure no one has to share her experience of losing their leg.

I was scared what happened to my father was happening to me.

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I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was twelve.  My father Felix was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes weeks before I was, and he sadly died in 1998 after having both legs amputated. He was only 56. 

Never during my journey with diabetes, had I ever had an appointment with a Podiatrist.  

My hospital knew about my father's death because I told them about my concerns.

I then developed an ingrown toenail. Traces of neuropathy (loss of feeling) had not been properly highlighted in my hospital file, so when the podiatrist dealt with my toenail, I developed gangrene. I had no idea what was happening to me. 

All I knew was that at 2am every morning, this burning pain would strike my body. None of my shoes felt comfortable enough to wear.  Walking was extremely painful and difficult.  When I went to the hospital, a team of 12 surgeons was waiting for me. I was scared what happening to my father was happening to me. The next day, I had my toes amputated.

Unfortunately, an infection developed. I had my leg amputated below the knee six days after my 40birthday.  I received no therapy after the operation.  I was in hospital for 12 weeks, first healing and then learning how to walk.  I didn't mind looking at my leg as long as it had the bandage on it but one day, the physiotherapists told me that it was time to take the bandages off, and I fell apart!  I was grieving for my lost leg.

It made me determined to raise awareness.

 

Losing toes first and then having to have a below-knee amputation was a tremendous shock to me, but it has made me more determined to raise awareness of severe diabetic complications.

The Putting Feet First campaign is a meaningful way of getting the right message across about the importance of foot care. It is important to raise awareness not only through healthcare professionals, but through people with diabetes who have real, first-hand experience of amputations.

I learn to swim again…I shared my story with the media and my MP.

I have been extremely lucky.  I learnt to swim again, I have swum with dolphins in Mexico, I make a contribution in my community where I sit on Social Service Committees, I ask probing questions of the managers in Social Services, I am vice-Chair of the Croydon Disability Forum and I have been on television speaking about amputations and diabetics to raise awareness.  

I shared my story with the media and my MP at the ‘135 shoes’ display outside Parliament. This was part of Diabetes UK’s campaign to raise awareness of the shocking number of amputations that take place in England every week. I do feel that my leg amputation could have been avoided. In my ideal world, no other Diabetic should have to have their leg amputated, and that’s why I’m campaigning with Diabetes UK.  

Find out how you can join the Putting Feet First Campaign like Janet 

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