Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries


Age at interview: 44

Brief outline: Ambrose broke his ankle for the third time in 2000. He had surgery to reconstruct his foot and ankle. In 2012 he chose to have his leg amputated below the knee after an infection spread throughout the bone in his leg and caused him a great deal of pain.

Background: Ambrose is a research nurse, but was not working at the time of interview. He is single, has four children, aged 26, 23, 20 and 18, and lives alone. He also has grandson, aged 4. Ethnic background' White/Irish.

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Ambrose had gone out with his friends for a drink at the weekend. He was running to catch up with them on their way to another pub when he slipped on the wet ground and landed awkwardly on his foot. He went to hospital where initially they thought it was a minor injury. However, x-rays showed that it was badly damaged and Ambrose was taken to surgery just hours later.
A later x-ray revealed that the bone wasn’t healing properly and Ambrose spent three weeks in hospital having intravenous antibiotics. In another operation the surgeons managed to reconstruct it using bone, muscle and skin grafts.
Two years after the initial injury, Ambrose returned to work as a research nurse, a job which allowed him the flexibility of managing his own hours which was good because he was on a lot of pain medication that made him feel “lightheaded sometimes”. 
In 2010, Ambrose woke in bed to find his leg was “more sore than expected”. He pulled back the covers and noticed the bed “full of blood and pus”. Fortunately a friend lived nearby and was able to rush him to hospital where it was discovered that two of the screws holding his reconstruction together had moved and were breaking through the surface of his skin. 
At this stage it was discovered that his bone was badly infected and it was unlikely that it could be fixed to the extent where Ambrose could walk on it and that it would not cause him pain. So, he decided that he wanted to have his leg amputated. He explained “For me to be able to get back to work and back to normal life it was no good because I can’t use it as a leg”.
His amputation took place two months before he was interviewed. He had been given medication to ensure he would not experience phantom pain and this had worked well. However, he does get phantom sensation in his amputated foot, which feels like his “socks are on too tight”. He had been fitted with a prosthetic leg and was “very pleased with the progress” he had made. The surgeons who operated on him have also reassured him that he “made the right decision”. 
Ambrose always knew that he was going to have to have an amputation at some point. He advises people who are in the same position as him to “keep the communication going between you and health professionals” and to ask questions, but to trust that the doctors are trying to make you. 


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