A decade ago, Liz Healey’s life was very different from the one she enjoys now.
By late 2009, she was mired in a world of pain. A happy-go-lucky person by nature, she was nevertheless reduced to a “zombie” by the high level of morphine she was on to ease the pain from a knee injury.
“I was taking about 360 micrograms a day, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an awful lot,” Liz, 69, says.
“I wouldn’t even leave the house, I would just stay in bed. Sometimes, I would even soil myself.
“I was doped up to the eyeballs.”
It was hard for her husband, Bill, to watch his wife fading before his eyes, but every time Liz went to the doctors, they merely upped her dose.
“If your doctor keeps upping your dose then find someone else,” she says.
“That should be a signal to change your GP.”
Liz, who owned her own hairdressing salon, had sustained the knee injury at work while helping an elderly woman up the stairs.
“She started to falter and fall, and because she was in her 80s I placed myself before her to protect her fall,” Liz says.
“That is how my knee got crushed.”
Multiple efforts to successfully replace the left knee failed and led to infection, and by the time 2010 came around Liz was in a bad way.
“I went to the doctors and they told me that if I didn’t get the left leg amputated then I would be dead by Christmas,” Liz recalls.
“The infection in my leg was likely to spread and I wasn’t eating much, so I hardly weighed a thing.”
Liz decided to go ahead with the above-knee amputation, and as soon as she did, she felt a weight lift off her shoulders.
“Getting my leg amputated was the best thing I have done,” Liz says.
“I had the soreness of the amputation, but there was no ongoing pain and I am now off the morphine.
“I don’t grieve for the loss of my leg.”
Liz used a prosthetic leg for a while, but her right leg suffered neuropathy —a loss of feeling from nerve damage — as well as foot drop.
“The doctor thinks this may have happened because my right leg was working so much harder to compensate,” she says.
As a result, Liz, now gets around in a wheelchair, but she has not let that stop her from enjoying life.
“You have got to find a way to live within the confinements of your condition,” she says.
“I think I have always been a positive person and that has really helped.”
She still drives (controlling the break and accelerator through buttons), plays lawn bowls in her chair, and volunteers with the Red Cross.
“You don’t know what tomorrow will bring so now I say to people to really enjoy life,” Liz says.
“I especially say that to retirees who are thinking of doing something in the next five or so years. I tell them to do it now.”
She uses MedAdvisor to manage her and Bill’s medications, although Bill is only on cholesterol tablets despite being 81 years old.
“He eats lots of fatty foods, and enjoys his beer and wine, but doesn’t have any extra weight on him,” Liz says with a laugh.
“He just has really good genes.”
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This story was written by Johanna Leggatt. Johanna is an Australian journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in both print and online. She has worked across a wide range of subject areas, including health, property, finance, interiors, and arts.