By Niamh Shackleton
A mum-of-three who slipped while rushing on the school run has chosen to have her leg amputated after the limb caused her crippling agony.
Julie Banwell, 44, from Huddersfield, West Yorks, fell over onto her knees while picking her three children from school.
She needed several stitches to repair her damaged knee but after developing Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a rare condition that causes severe nerve pain – she has spent almost a decade in agony.
After begging for doctors to ‘cut off her leg’ since 2010, Julie finally underwent the amputation last June.
And she now says she wouldn’t rule out having her OTHER leg amputated if the pain spreads.
Julie, a recently retired classroom assistant, said: “I fell over on the school run as I was rushing.
“I had no idea how much damage I’d caused at the time but shortly after my injury my knee kept locking and it was causing me a lot of discomfort.
“I was always dismissed by doctors with Ibuprofen gel but eventually it locked so badly that I needed to go to A&E.
“After an X-ray they told me part of the bone in my knee had broken and became jammed which was causing the locking.
“Turned out I had been walking on a fractured knee for 18 months.
“The doctors don’t know if the CRPS started straight after the fall or after my first operation since it took so long to be diagnosed.
“All I can say that the pain was horrific – it was almost like my burning sensation 24/7.”
Julie, who has three children, Leon, 23, and Lakeisha, 20, and Logan, 13 – who suffers with autism – has found being a single mum to three children whilst dealing with her severe pain has been difficult.
She said: “It’s been very difficult at times – I’ve had to hide a lot of my pain as not to upset the kids.
“I sob my heart out through the night when I know they are asleep and can’t hear me.
“I’ve had to try and keep everything as normal as possible for them keep routine going in the house and carry on working although; I eventually have to drop my hours tremendously over the past few years to just four hours a week over two days because the pain was becoming unbearable.
“It’s upset me that I’ve not been able to go play football with my youngest son and go in lovely country walks like we used to but the main thing I’ve missed is not being able to drive.
“We’ve adapted pretty good as a family though I would say and my eldest two have been a fantastic support for me as they got older – even their friends have been supportive.”
In 2016, Julie found the pain so intolerable, she begged doctors to remove her leg.
She said: “I was worried they would think I was mad for asking to remove my leg, but I just couldn’t take the pain any longer.
“I wasn’t able to bare any weight on my leg what so ever, and ended up wheelchair bound for two years – there was no point it being there.
“Luckily, the doctors understood where I was coming from and took me seriously – I had no history of depression or mental health issues, so they knew I was in a stable mindset when I asked.”
Prior to Julie’s amputation, doctors had tried several different treatments to heal it, but none of them worked.
Julie endured three microfracture surgeries where they drill into the bone in the hope of causing a blood clot to fix the damaged area.
Julie added: “After the third surgery, my knee wouldn’t bend at all and I ended up with really bad blood flow in my leg.
“Because of this, surgeons wouldn’t do the procedure on me again in the worry it would cause more harm than good.
“I ended up with deep vein thrombosis as well – it was all going downhill.”
In 2015 and 2017, Julie also endured two spinal cord stimulation surgeries, whereby a ‘pain pacemaker’ was attached to her spine to help with the CRPS.
Again – this didn’t work and over the years the CRPS has began to spread to her other leg as well.
It wasn’t until 2018 that Julie finally got her way and had her leg amputated and has found her quality of life has improved ever since.
Julie added: “I saw it was my only way out of the pain – the surgery has got rid of the CRPS in that limb I feel healthier than I have in a long time my medications are greatly reduced.
“My life is a lot better without my leg and, if it came to it, I’d have my other leg taken off too.”
BREAKDOWN OF SURGERIES:
– Microfracture December 2011
– Microfracture January 2013
– Microfracture with synovectomy November 2013
– Spinal cord stimulator implant October 2015
– Spinal cord stimulatr implant removal June 2017
– Above knee amputation June 2018
– Revision surgery on amputated limb July 2019