Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Bill and Catherine

Age at interview: 57

Brief outline: Bill was involved in a road traffic collision 12 years ago. As a result of his injuries, his leg was amputated above the knee. Bill felt it was important to include Catherine in re-telling the story of his injury because she played a crucial part in his recovery.

Background: Bill, a retired police sergeant, and his wife Catherine, a retired staff nurse, are married and have two children, aged 19 and 22. Ethnic background' White British & White British/Irish.

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Bill was travelling to work on his motorbike when another driver misinterpreted the traffic lights and collided with him. He was flung into the air and still vividly remembers the sound of his body hitting the road. The pain that followed was “unbelievable”. 
When he arrived at hospital, he was given the choice of having his leg reconstructed or amputated, although he doesn’t feel he was given enough information or advice to be able to make such a decision. He chose a reconstruction, which was not successful. He became very ill with an infection and subsequently had an amputation. Bill said he thanked the surgeon who amputated his leg and told him he’d saved his life.
When he was in hospital, it was difficult for Catherine “trying not to be a nurse, just trying to be a wife” because she was “watching things going wrong and people perhaps not reacting as quickly as they could have”. Bill describes Catherine as his “angel” because she took such good care of him in hospital and throughout his recovery.
After the amputation, Bill felt physically he’d “turned a corner and moved on to the next stage” of his recovery. He began physio to regain his mobility and returned home. Both he and Catherine found life very difficult at this stage. In addition to dealing with Bill’s new problems, Catherine was looking after their two children and her parents. Even though he was depressed and “suicidal” it was difficult to get psychiatric help. Bill also struggled to be successfully fitted with a prosthetic leg that worked for him and, consequently, now only uses a wheelchair or crutches to get around. He says this is particularly problematic for him if he wants to wear his kilt or shorts. 
According to Catherine and Bill, his injury had both positive and negative implications for their children. They saw things other children wouldn’t expect to see, including their father’s wound bleeding profusely whilst they were attending a music recital. Catherine said the worst thing for their children was not knowing when they “were going to get an outburst” from Bill. However, both agree they have grown up to be “rounded, thoughtful and good” and said their son told them he wouldn’t be the person he is without those experiences. 
Following his accident, Bill was able to claim compensation. This was a long and complicated process, and included covert surveillance by the insurance company, which Bill said contributed to his stress and depression. He encourages others not to let compensation to get in the way of your relationship and Catherine advised couples to try not to “be down together”.



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