**Warning: Image some people might find a bit gruesome below**
Two years ago this week, my leg exploded. I was sitting at my desk working on the computer when I felt a sudden wetness on my shin, as if someone had tipped a glass of water down it. This was followed a second later by a stench so foul it stung my nose.
Something obviously wasn’t right.
I don’t remember when the pain hit. I think I was too much in shock to begin with. I went into the bathroom and rolled up my trouser leg. My shin… was gone. I mean, it looked like something out of a SFX movie. You know the bit where they’ve shot the alien and there’s just a corpse with a massive hole where its chest once was – that was like my leg.
My shin had a hole the size of a tea plate. There was just nothing. I looked in panic, saw blood and gristle. I saw my shin bone, but I couldn’t see how deep the hole went. What had exploded out of it was bright neon orange, and it stank like death.
I panicked. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t go to the hospital there and then. Instead, I waited until the next day and hobbled the quarter of a mile to the doctor’s surgery. I remember the agony I felt.
I also remember the doctor taking a look at it and seeing his eyes go wide. I remember him apologising for causing pain as he took a swab of the orange goo, only for me to tell him through gritted teeth to just do it.
I’d got an infection in my leg, and had blown out most of my circulation as a result. I was less than a week from Eastercon where I was due to do my first panel as an author. They hadn’t said I couldn’t drive, so I went, leg bandaged up and still stinking of death. I was in so much pain, that the inch thick wooden walking stick I bought myself snapped from me gripping it too hard during a bout of pain.
Three weeks later, I got a secondary infection and saw the leg swell to three times it’s already swollen size.
Somehow I managed to keep the leg, although it was touch and go. I walked a tightrope of resting it and keeping it exercised, I had drugs that meant I had to go on a fat-free diet or suffer internal bleeding (which I still did a couple of times). I had so much pain that to this day I feel my nerve endings couldn’t have hurt more if they had tried. I had a regime of drugs that tested me.
I remember a time about five weeks on when it all got too much, when I really didn’t think I could cope any more. My drugs made me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach constantly and the leg still hurt so bad that I remember seeing pictures of victims of the Boston marathon bombing and thinking that their lost limbs probably hurt less as they’d lost a lot of nerve endings.
At that moment of crisis, I surprised myself. I had a choice whether to stay a victim of what had happened to me, or to become a survivor. I either lay down and metaphorically die, or I fought. I surprised myself by opting for the fighting.
It was a turning point for me. Through gritted teeth, I started hobbling around the block, returning home in tears and absolute agony. Over a course of months I built my walking back up. I desperately wanted to go Geocaching, and ended up defying the doctor to go do a 100 cache, 27 mile route, with a 6” hole still in my leg.
Why? Because I was damned if I was going to let the leg stop me. If it hurt, then good, because it was hurting the leg as much as it was me. I still had to be careful, and figure out how to do some things without damaging the leg. I’d had so many antibiotics poured into me that any further infection might become resistant.
In September, six months after leggeddon, with the leg still bandaged up, I took the UK on foot geocaching record.
I went from walking to some running. I’d never run before and to this day I run slower than I walk, but I built myself up to two or three miles.
I decided that after such a shit year, 2014 would be the year I would treat myself with my year of adventure. I started sword-fighting and went storm chasing, continuing my metamorphosis. In the background I worked on changing the way I wrote so that I would never become derailed again. I took my old geocaching record and didn’t just break it, I smashed it in a way that over a year on, still hasn’t been broken. All these activities fed off each other and I completed my year of metamorphosis, ten stone lighter and owning a house in a completely different county.
And so we come to 2015, my year of hard work. A year that has already seen me write over 200,000 words.
I still have to wear compression bandages on my leg. I have to take incredible precautions not to knock it or scratch it. The skin is like tissue paper and prone to infection. I manage my own risk but on good days it just feels like a really bad burn from knee to ankle. On bad days, my foot goes ice cold and I cannot get it warm no matter what I do. Whilst I’m off the tablets, I still get the long term effects of really bad stomach cramps, and have had one brief incident of internal bleeding since. I weigh myself every day and watch out for the tell-tale signs of rising and then dropping as much as 5lbs in 24 hours.
I’m wary of dogs. A small dog jumping up against my leg is enough to gouge open the tissue or cause another infection. I can’t geocaching in undergrowth without taking it very carefully. I’m trying to find ways to protect the leg whilst I sword-fight.
But I still have the leg, and two years ago, that was looking very, very doubtful.
The experience has shown strength to me I didn’t know I had, and I’m a very different person to who I was two years ago.
Would I do it again, if I had to? The short answer is no. As easy as it is to romanticise, I lost a lot of time to leggeddon and it’s given me two years of pain. Just because I’ve endured and come out changed by the experience, doesn’t mean I’d ever want to visit the horror of the last couple of years again.
And to give you an idea of how bad it is: This is the leg, 2 years on from the initial explosion, the small white patch in the centre is the scar from the hole, although it’s shrunk quite a bit. Does it hurt? Yeah, like hell. But I ain’t gonna let it stop me doing things… ever!
Leggeddon 2nd Anniversary
**Warning: Image some people might find a bit gruesome below**