TV’s Supervet Inspires Female Amputee
When out walking in London on 16th February 2007, Victoria Reeve (50) from Doncaster was hit by car that mounted the pavement. She suffered severe injuries to her right leg resulting in a transfemoral (above the knee) amputation the same day.
Eight years later, inspired in part by watching TV’s Supervet programme, Victoria has undergone a revolutionary operation which she describes as transforming her life. As she explains, “Before my accident I enjoyed rambling in the countryside with my daughter and her dog, as well as cycling. But as an amputee, such activities became very challenging.”
For the first year after her amputation Victoria used a prosthesis provided by her local NHS Centre. Her solicitor then referred her to Pace Rehabilitation for an assessment, as prosthetist Toby Carlsson recalls, “We identified several potential improvements that could be made, both by changing the socket and also by providing a microprocessor controlled knee (MPK) that could increase Victoria’s confidence by providing more security and safety.”
With approval to proceed with Pace’s recommendations, Victoria purchased a MPK prosthesis in 2009 and has continued to receive her prosthetic and physiotherapy services from their Cheadle clinic.
Still, prosthetic use was not without its challenges. Victoria has a condition known as hidradentitis suppurativa which makes her skin sensitive to the kind of loading that occurs in a prosthetic socket. This caused regular skin problems that would only resolve if she stayed off her prosthesis for a few days. The situation worsened over time and Victoria had to endure a lot of discomfort in order to maintain her mobility.
In 2012 Toby made Victoria aware of osseointegration (OI), a surgical procedure where a metal implant is fitted into the bone of a residual limb. The implant protrudes through the skin, and a prosthesis is directly attached to it. Given the problems Victoria had, it was an alternative that Toby thought she might want to explore. As Victoria recounts, “I was very interested, particularly as it meant I would not need a prosthetic socket. So we started to look into it in more detail”.
However, after her initial enthusiasm, Victoria put the idea on hold. As she explains, “There was too much going on in my life at the time and the operation was quite a daunting prospect, not to mention the logistics involved in who was going to look after all my animals both during and after the operation, when I would be recovering.”
Two years had passed when Victoria and her partner Ron were watching Supervet on television. As Victoria recalls, “It featured a cat with an osseointegrated artificial leg running about. It seems a funny thing to be inspired by, but it kick-started me to resume my osseointegration research.”
Toby put a reinvigorated Victoria in touch with surgeons in London, Sweden and Germany, who had each carried out OI procedures and suggested that she met with each of them. As Victoria recounts, “We began a road trip, meeting the teams and gathering information, but I really clicked with the German Doctor and preferred the speed of their procedure.”
So, on 14th January 2015, Victoria underwent the first stage of her surgery in Germany, before the concluding second stage six weeks later. Three days afterwards she took her first steps on her OI implant, describing it as, “Brilliant. It felt absolutely fantastic”. Adding, “I was surprised how easy it was to walk on!”
A week later Victoria was discharged from the clinic, initially using two crutches, but has quickly progressed, as she explains, “I’m using a single crutch now, but I do find myself sometimes walking off and leaving it now!”
Victoria regards the procedure as a success, but explains, “I have had some hip issues, but my physiotherapist says that this is because I’m walking differently and better now, so it should improve.”
Whilst OI has benefitted Victoria, Toby explains that it needs careful consideration: “Osseointegration is not the panacea of prosthetics, it is a procedure that should not be undertaken lightly. However, it is increasingly publicised and available from a small number of specialist centres around the world. It has definitively improved the quality of life for a handful of our patients, but as with any surgical treatment, there are risks that need to be considered. Importantly, individuals who contemplate going through the procedure must think beyond the surgery. They need to be able to return to a team in the UK that has experience and understands how to deal with osseointegrated prostheses. It is very different from the other work we do. Consequently, we have spent the last couple of years travelling the world to learn from the leading teams so that people like Victoria can feel confident that when they have had their surgery, we are ready to support their long term needs.”
Eight years after her terrible accident, Victoria is delighted to have regained a lot of her lost mobility, commenting: “I can’t wait to get back to going out and walking with my family and the dog. The operation has been life changing for me.”
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