How a Morecambe woman's freak perfume injury led to her losing her lower leg - and now she is ready to take on John West Great North Swim for St John's Hospice

Gill Haddington prepares for her swimGill Haddington prepares for her swim
Gill Haddington prepares for her swim
After dropping a perfume bottle on her foot, Gill Haddington had to have her leg amputated. But after months of physio and training, she is ready to test herself and swim one mile in the Lake District for St John’s Hospice.

A woman who had to have part of her leg amputated after she dropped a perfume bottle on her foot is now preparing to take on an open water swim challenge.

Gill Haddington, from Morecambe, was left unable to walk for two years after dropping a small and empty perfume bottle on the top of her foot in September 2015. Despite x-rays not showing any damage, her foot swelled. She was diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome, caused by an abnormal physical response to an injury and several existing chronic illnesses, including fibromyalgia and althralgia.

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After dealing with the debilitating condition for two years, she chose to have her lower leg amputated.With rehabilitation and physio, she is ready to test her strength and take part in the John West Great North Swim at Brockhole-on-Windermere this weekend to raise money for St John’s Hospice.

Gill Haddington learning to walk againGill Haddington learning to walk again
Gill Haddington learning to walk again

Gill, 42, who also suffers from degenerative disc disease, as well as coeliac disease and Sjogren’s Syndrome, recalls: “I dropped a small perfume bottle on my foot. I went for x-rays and scans, but nothing showed up. “I could not walk on my foot and it continued to get worse as my foot swelled and increased in size and then my toes started to curl under. Eventually, my whole foot turned to the left. Finally, nine months later I was diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome.“I think the pain was linked to the fibromyalgia, as my brain sent signals saying I am in pain which is five times more painful than normal and may be pain I don’t necessarily have. “Because of my autoimmune illnesses (coeliac disease and Sjogren’s Syndrome) any infection on a cut can get quite bad, with ulcers. I went through pain and being in a debilitating state for two years before I eventually went to see a specialist and begged for an amputation. Five months later, I had the procedure in 2017.”

Following her amputation, Gill waited months for a prosthetic leg to arrive and so relied on the use of a wheelchair. She adds: “It has been a struggle with everyday life after my amputation. I was in a wheelchair for four months before I got my prosthetic leg, so getting around was a struggle. Even before I dropped the perfume on my foot, I was in a wheelchair as I had a bad back with my chronic illnesses.“When I got my leg, I went through physiotherapy to get the balance right and to learn how to walk again but after a few months everything was great. I was very determined. I could walk really well with two crutches and persevered.“Every few months I have to change prosthetic legs. It can affect my back as I walk differently. But my latest leg allows me to bend a bit more.”

One thing Gill had missed was swimming. Determined to get back in the water, Gill has been training to swim one mile in the John West Great North Swim.She adds: “I used to swim before my diagnosis. When I get in the water, it feels amazing and doesn’t feel like I have any issues. I can swim for as long as I want.“I’m excited about crossing the finish line as an amputee and I can’t wait to experience the buzz that I’ll get competing with everyone else. It will be a challenge for me because of the cold, After about 10 minutes my hands will go numb so I am worried about that. I have done some training but I have not wanted to wear myself out.“I really wanted to do this as a friend died in October and he was cared for by St John’s Hospice. They were fantastic and I wanted to do something to help them.”

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Gill Haddington after her leg amputationGill Haddington after her leg amputation
Gill Haddington after her leg amputation

Gill has seven chronic illnesses and two autoimmune diseases, which leave her feeling depressed and anxious.She says: “Pretty much everywhere hurts. I always wake up tired, no matter how I have slept. I do feel a lot better since I had my leg removed but every day is still a struggle. It is not much of a life.“I try to do a bit of housework and I have a nap in the afternoons. I do mindfulness to help me relax.”

Amongst Gill’s illnesses include: fibromyalgia (chronic pain, extreme tiredness muscle stiffness); althralgia (pain in the joints) degenerative disc disease (when normal changes that take place in the disks of your spine cause pain); coeliac disease (digestive condition where the small intestine becomes inflamed and unable to absorb nutrients) and Sjogren’s syndrome (disorder of the immune system identified by dry eyes and dry mouth).