A SIMPLE stumble and a fall led to devastating consequences for Antonietta Broadhurst as she underwent numerous operations before being told she’d never walk again. She tells AASMA DAY how medics at Royal Preston Hospital gave her back her life by performing surgery that has miraculously allowed her to walk.
Watching 92-year-olds walking around the housing complex where she lives, Antonietta Broadhurst would feel a pang of regret for what might have been.
“I felt like I’d been robbed.” admits 58-year-old Antonietta. “I am the youngest person living in this development and ended up here after looking at properties where I could get my wheelchair through.
“I love living here and have got really good neighbours and friends.
“But seeing people a lot older than me being able to walk made me wish that I was still able to walk.”
Antonietta, who was a childminder for 17 years, decided to have some time off and spent six months living in Fuerteventura, six months in Lanzarote and a month in the South of Spain.
She met her friend Richard Richard through ballroom dancing and they became good travelling buddies and visited different places together. Sadly, Richard died of cancer a few years ago.
Antonietta recalls: “I don’t really know why I got the urge to go travelling as most people wait until a bit later in life.
“But after what happened, I am glad I did it when I did.”
At the beginning of September 2005, Antonietta went to London and did all the touristy things such as visit St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Gallery, Key Gardens and Big Ben as well as go to the Last Night of the Proms.
Only weeks later, towards the end of September, she suffered the life changing fall.
Antonietta, who was working at a care agency looking after disabled teenagers at the time, remembers: “It was my day off and my friend asked me to go shopping with her in Manchester.
“After doing a bit of window shopping, we decided to head to Chinatown for something to eat as it is something completely different that we don’t have in Preston.
“I was born in Manchester and used to live there so I knew all the back streets to get to Chinatown.
“We were walking along a pavement that looked like a patchwork quilt as it was such a mixture of different tarmacs. It was all wobbly and uneven.
“I was wearing flat shoes but all of a sudden, I just seemed to twirl and trip and land on the floor.
“It all happened so quickly and I felt excruciating pain at the top of my hip and couldn’t get up.”
Antonietta’s friend called for an ambulance and she was taken to the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
After X-raying Antonietta, doctors told her that the break was so bad, it looked like she’d been involved in a major traffic accident.
Antonietta explains: “I had broken my femur - my thigh bone - just below where it goes into the hip and where the ball and socket meet.
“They operated and put a nail in it to try to fix it but this didn’t work.”
What followed for Antonietta was a multitude of procedures at Manchester Royal Infirmary followed by two other hospitals - but nothing worked to improve things.
Ruefully, Antonietta says: “With each operation, instead of getting better, I seemed to get worse. It was just one of those things.
“They tried surgery to put a thicker nail in - but that failed. Then they tried putting a plate in - but that didn’t work either.
“They tried another plate, but that failed too. They then put a Ilizarov frame on which is like a cage that holds things together.
“However, this got badly infected and when they took it off, I had to lose the top of my femur.”
Antonietta was then given the devastating news that there was nothing more than could be done.
She says: “After the accident, I was on crutches. But after all these procedures, I deteriorated so much, I could not walk and I was in a wheelchair all the time.
“I could not even stand up because it was too painful. I had to use a transfer board to get in and out of bed and I relied on the wheelchair, friends and taxis to get around.
“I also had an open wound on my leg since 2005 which district nurses had to come in and dress daily.”
Things took a turn for the worse for Antonietta when her spinal cord became twisted which was probably caused by her wheelchair going over something bumpy.
She was in a lot of pain and was losing the sensations in her leg. Luckily, doctors managed to operate and the feeling returned to her legs.
In February this year, Antonietta suddenly began feeling really shivery and thought she must be coming down with a cold.
She later discovered her femur had become badly infected leading her to develop a high temperature.
Antonietta recalls: “I had been to a church service and felt really cold. When I got home, I put the heating on and left my coat on and just thought I must be coming down with a cold.
“At 6pm, one of the carers Andrew came round and he noticed straight away that something was wrong.
“He told me that I looked like something out of The Exorcist.
“Even though I told Andrew I would be OK and should just go to bed, he rang 999 and the ambulance came.
“Although I felt freezing, when the paramedics took my temperature, they found it was very high.
“If Andrew had put me to bed as I wanted, I might not have woken up.”
Antonietta was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital where doctors identified her femur had become infected.
After giving her IV antibiotics to treat her infection, Antonietta was told that consultant orthopaedic surgeon Richard Boden was interested in her case and felt he might be able to help her.
Mr Boden told Antonietta he might be able to help her with a two-part operation. However, he warned her there was also a risk she could lose her leg.
Antonietta says: “After speaking to my son and daughter, we all came to the conclusion that I had nothing to lose as I didn’t have use of my leg as it was.”
Mr Boden carried out the first part of the procedure which involved removing the infected tissue and old broken bits of artificial femur and screws.
He then closed Antonietta’s hip up and this in itself was a massive boost to Antonietta as it was the first time she didn’t have a weeping hip in years.
Antonietta says: “It was wonderful. If Mr Boden couldn’t have done any more for me, the fact that I no longer had a leaking wound was great and improved my life so much.”
After putting Antonietta on long term antibiotics and being satisfied she was clear of infection, the second operation was performed.
This was to give Antonietta a full hip replacement to replace the lost part of her femur.
Since then, Antonietta has been working with rehabilitation staff in the hospital and the community to build up her strength and has taken her first faltering steps.
She is now determined to build on this and improve her walking further.
Antonietta says: “All the staff in hospital and the community have been wonderful and have worked so hard with me.
“I felt very nervous taking those first few steps again. It was like looking over the edge of a cliff.
“I have a two-year-old granddaughter who can walk better than me!
“But after being told I would never walk again by three different hospitals, to actually walk again felt amazing.
“I went to a routine appointment with Mr Boden and I told him I had a party trick to show him.
“I then walked across the room using a zimmer frame.
“I am able to walk to my bedroom and an just taking things one step at a time - literally.
“I feel blessed every day.
“I have been very lucky to have had good doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
“Whenever anyone asked me if I wanted anything, I would reply: “Your prayers.”
“People who had not said prayers since primary school prayed for me.
“I truly believe prayer power played a big part in this.
“I prayed for a miracle to allow me to walk again and it has happened.
“All the hospital staff were amazing and I can’t wait to start walking properly again.
“I couldn’t be happier.”