In November 2016, following a road accident, Nélia lost the use of her right leg. At only 12 years old, she underwent an amputation and must now learn to live in this new body. Discover his inspiring and moving testimony.
After three days of artificial coma, nine months of treatment and a muscle transplant to try to save her leg, Nélia – who thought she was only suffering from a fracture – finds herself having to amputate her right leg. For TipsForWomens, she confides in her extraordinary journey.
Before your amputation, the doctors had warned you that you should wear an external fixator to try to treat your leg, how did you experience this announcement?
Nélia: “When my surgeon told me I had to stay on fixer for a year, I cried. I didn’t realize, since I was lying down, that I had hoops and a blanket around me all the time. . I did not see the extent of the damage. And at the same time, I think that to a child, one does not say many things… I was 11 years old at that time”.
You stayed in the hospital for several months with this fixator on your leg, how did you experience your hospitalization?
“It was actually a very routine daily routine. I get up and take my Lovenox injection – just to thin the blood, because I couldn’t walk anymore and it was very dangerous because I could have had edema I also took about twenty medications, I saw the physiotherapist, I slept, I ate…
After months in the hospital, months of pain in a wheelchair, unable to walk and barely standing, I simply asked to have my amputated. The doctors still gave me a long delay so that I could decently say goodbye to my leg. At first, there was still a lot of anger, hatred, I hated her. I had the impression of having wasted a lot of time, as if it was useless to have suffered for nothing. I talked to him, I wrote letters for months as if he were a person. It really did me good to put words to it.
When you woke up after the amputation, did you feel apprehensive or were you relieved that you were no longer in pain?
“That day, there was my favorite nursing staff. They had put down their morning to be with me, to accompany me. What is very funny is that when I woke up, in the recovery room, he had a poster of Robocop. For me, it was a sign, it made me laugh.
When I woke up I asked to see my leg, I wanted to see what it looked like. There was a part of me that was a little shocked because I had imagined it for a very long time, but it’s never really how you imagine it.
When I went back up to my room, I started having phantom pains. It is extremely complicated to manage because, even if I had been warned that it happened to 80% of amputees and that I would surely have some, it is still very frustrating to think that I was finally leaving my leg to have the same pain, or even worse. In the end, after trying many other things, like cannabidiol, I preferred to stop and tell myself that I was going to manage the pain.
Have you apprehended the wearing of the prosthesis?
“It’s true that at the beginning, I was really sold the prosthesis as something incredible, like an extension with which you could do everything and which was customizable. It’s true… but not at the beginning I still took the time necessary to familiarize myself with it, to walk with it, so as not to hate it… Because it’s true that at certain times, it’s extremely complicated to feel stuck in something again. I started to really walk a year later and felt really good and comfortable walking after two years.”
Today, how are you living this new life with your prosthesis?
“I can do everything. Apart from a few small details like climbing stairs, it’s always a bit more complicated, a bit longer but otherwise I feel completely independent and much more than if I had one leg.
For me today, I didn’t “rebuild” myself, but I built myself from that. I based my life on that. It is precisely very complicated, when everything changes, to find the balance between my previous life and this one. I think my accident allowed me to discover the person I was, the person I was hiding. I just didn’t know who I was. Everything changed and I kind of took over this life from scratch.
Today, telling myself that I’m leaving with something less makes me want to give even more, to feel even more alive after feeling dead. I think I need this feeling, this overcoming. It’s all the more motivating and I’m all the more proud of myself when I say to myself “Oh yeah, I managed to do it with one leg missing”. Because beyond this amputation, it is the mind that compensates”.