Highbury university student sees her leg amputated to deal with chronic pain
Helena Stone has "no regrets" after choosing to have her leg amputated
27 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Helena Stone days after her operation
A UNIVERSITY student is celebrating having her leg amputated after suffering years of crippling pain.
Helena Stone, 22, from Highbury, faced a huge battle to have her leg removed on the NHS after living in “agony” with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) for six years.
But Ms Stone, who has taken a year out from her education degree at the University of Gloucester- shire to have the operation, said she was “relieved” to finally have her leg amputated earlier this month.
“CRPS pain for me was like a mixture of burning pain and bone pain. It was like having a mixture of having my leg set on fire and barbed wire being tightened,” she said.
Ms Stone developed CRPS following a kayaking injury during a time when she was touted as a potential Olympic competitor.
Her first words in the recovery room after the general anaesthetic wore off were, “I don’t have nerve pain, my CRPS is gone”.
She said the build-up to the surgery had been “nerve-wracking”, adding: “I knew I had prepared as best I could, but I was still nervous how I would react after. I just tried to stay calm which seemed to be me being very chatty,” she said.
Ms Stone had her surgery at the private Princess Grace Hospital in Marylebone after she was refused the operation on the NHS because of complication risks.
There is also no guarantee that the pain won’t return, but she has no regrets with going through with the amputation.
She said: “I was lucky that the main doctors treating me after my injury and since my diagnosis, have always taken me seriously.”
She added: “The problem occurred when I saw a doctor who was not aware of CRPS. It was then that I would face questioning, disbelief and sometimes accusations of making it up, or that my ulcers from my CRPS were self-harm.”
Through her blog and the publicity she has raised around the relatively unknown condition, she has found herself frequently offering advice to fellow CRPS sufferers.
“The biggest challenge people face is being believed by those who should be helping them. I regularly hear about people feeling as if they are not believed about the level of pain or they have been discharged with no support or advice,” she said. “As I had the backing
from my pain consultant, psychologist, psychiatrist and physio, that this could be my only chance of a better quality of life, a detailed referral was made to the surgeon of choice. I was very lucky that he fully understood why I wanted it, that I was informed of the magnitude of amputation.”
She added: “Ultimately he agreed that it was an option for me and he was prepared to operate. He is a trauma surgeon, so he must be used to taking high-risk operations.”
Ms Stone is now looking- ing to get back on the water and into a kayak, and potentially one day competing in the Paralympics.
“I will also continue my CRPS awareness work but my first challenge will be learning to walk again and I start prosthetics rehab in the next few weeks. I hope to go on a walk on Christ-mas Day,” she said.