They say if you start your year at a low then it can only get better. This festive season I was the most 'out of action' I have been in the 6 years since getting back to sporting after losing my leg. Despite this difficult period, everything seems to have worked out very well, if not more positive!
On the 30th of November while in Austria having an amazing day riding loads of fresh snow down through the trees the tip of my board hit a hidden tree root. This sent me cartwheeling back onto the piste and into my team mate, sorry Tom! I knew instantly from the pain that I had badly injured my amputated leg, having just had my full weight pulling and spinning over it inside the carbon socket, which also rattled my leg on landing.
I sat for 5 minutes composing myself. The pain dimmed but was still immense. I struggled back onto my feet and started sliding on my toe edge, which was manageable despite the pain. I did try to turn onto my heel edge but the pressures on my stump in this stance was unmanageable. Back onto my toe edge, with my weight on my shins I was able to slide down the rest of the track to the bottom. I got back to the van and had to take my prosthetic leg off to relieve the pressure.
I had given myself a similar feeling injury in the past although not as bad. With that and the fact I was able to ride down the rest of the track I was pretty certain that it wasn't broken, just very badly bruised. My stump swelled up with shades of green and yellow, and the following days the scar tissue had gone purple showing the bruising inside. I did go for an x-ray and they confirmed it was not broken but badly bruised.
My plan had been to drive home for Christmas so I would have transportation to visit friends and family. Having rested and not worn my prosthetic leg for the 2.5 weeks since the crash and doing everything I could to reduce the swelling, I still couldn't get my prosthetic on. Having a manual pickup and not an automatic, this was a big problem. My everyday leg is a silicone liner with an airtight seal into the carbon socket which is shaped very closely to my stump. I figured I was able to get the leg on if using a sock over my stump into the socket, with a silicone sleeve over the top to hold it in place. I could not walk a long distance at all, but I could drive.
By the time I reached the ferry terminal in Rotterdam this improvised set up had broken the skin on the scarring at the back of my knee and a corn which I had there had blistered and burst. My leg was now in the worst state it had been. And I couldn't even stand on it, let alone walk. I had to phone the ferry company and organise a wheelchair to get me from the car to my cabin.
I managed to make it home, but my plans had to change. The broken skin had become infected and I had no choice but to stay at my mum's house resting, and the family and friends who could had to come to visit me!
My first competition was scheduled for the 13th of January, so I had planned to leave Stirling on the 2nd and spend a few days in Burton upon Trent at my private prosthetics centre, before getting the ferry back across on the 6th with a concert in Bruges that night. I tried to get my prosthetic on on the 2nd, and it still wouldn't fit. In a panicked state I dug out my old sockets which may be slightly wider and found one which may work. I called my NHS prosthetics centre in Glasgow to see if they could switch the sockets and they managed to fit me in. They were really helpful with some other techniques to reduce the swelling but I still had to use the old socket. They were able to give me a new foot with the old socket, so I still had the original if the swelling went down further. I was incredibly grateful for their help in not only fitting me in but sorting me with a leg I could wear, and to my absolute joy the new foot has a space between the big toe and other toes, so for the first time in 7 years I CAN WEAR FLIP-FLOPS!!!
Having not worn a prosthetic leg for 5 weeks, my muscles had seized up. I had no choice but to delay my plans for at least a week, while I attended physiotherapists and got used to walking again. With this extra time I decided to get over my resistance to automatic vehicles and look into locating a replacement vehicle. I found an identical Isuzu Fury edition but automatic at Lloyds Isuzu in Dumfries. In a great turnaround, I was able to exchange my manual pickup for the automatic and get all my extras transferred in that week. In a rather symbolic moment, the last thing I did with my manual pickup was step out of it and slide on sheet ice straight onto the floor and across the car park! You could say I couldn't get out of there quick enough!
With the extra week I was able to get in touch with Bretby Sign Craft, a company that does vehicle decals just down the street from my private prosthetics clinic in Burton upon Trent. I gave them the details of my website and my sponsors logos to put together a basic advertisement on the pickup, which I am really chuffed with!
I was able to drive back out a week after I had planned, and having the automatic was such a great help. Where the corn had blistered and burst has now healed with no corn so my leg is better than it was before. I still have some bruising on the stump but it only aggravates me when walking, not snowboarding so I can deal with that! With all this it turned out the race I would have missed was cancelled anyway and now if I do injure my leg again I will still be able to transport myself in an awesome branded pickup! Now to go and find myself some flip-flops....