During the middle of the night in a busy town in Queensland 27 years ago, Steph Lloyd was involved in a car crash with a P-plater. Unfortunately, Steph lost her lower leg. But that hasn’t stopped Steph; now she has just received an osseointegration that has changed her life for the better.
Apart from being a life-changing moment for yourself and everyone around you, describe your road to recovery …
After my accident, I was surprisingly back at work after three months, with a plaster cast on my leg, and a stick with a artificial foot attached. Since my amputation, I’ve had around 10 “revisions”, which is basically a reamputation. Many years ago, it used to take you out of action for six months, but everything is different now.
Would you say that the independence loss was one of the hardest things you had to come to grips with?..
Yes, I used to live by myself, work just like anyone else. It really hits hard to not be able to bring the money in to support yourself. I think that it goes hand-in-hand with being a massive mental drain that really affected my mental state at the time. To be honest, it’s something I still battle with. But, I went on to finish my apprenticeship and built a restaurant in the Blue Mountains called “Wentworth Falls Boulevarde” and in 1998, I was voted “Best New Restaurant in NSW” by the Australian Restaurant and Caterers Association.
So this procedure of osseointegration has been around for a while; tell us why you chose this avenue?
Sure. This technology has been around since the ‘50s – think dental implants. However, it has become an international success story mainly through the efforts of the Australian surgeon Dr Munjed Al Muderis and his work with Sydney prosthetist Stefan Laux. So while being an open-wound, I’ve had no infections, and it’s been fairly smooth sailing since. I’m not on any drugs for pain, which is fantastic.
What was the most prohibitive part of getting the procedure?
It has really only become accessible in Australia since about 2013, so I’m one of the few at the moment. After excitedly waiting one year, I was able to prepare myself physically and mentally; I was ready. The most expensive part of it is the actual surgery itself.
How much did you have to raise, and how did you do it?
It’s over $30,000 excess for the operation, with the full cost much more. I was really lucky to have help from some amazing services in town. Rotary, Masons and Lions groups helped unfailingly, along with Colin and Caroline Gadd, who were there for much of the way. Also, we didn’t know we could even raise the money either, so in a way it was nearly a pipe dream. But we did it!
Since this life changing surgery, what have you learnt?
Just patience, really. I really had to relearn patience all over again. Mindfulness as well has been a big thing for the recovery too. During my recovery period time, I met many people in the same boat as me. I think I have touched the lives of many of people going through some similar procedures.
For the last 26 odd years, what advantages has osseointegration given you over a normal prosthesis?
Being in the New England, it’s a lot colder! I used to have a sleeve right up my entire leg and then another silicon sleeve over that with the leg attached to that. Now, I clip my leg on and go. I can cross my legs, put a beer between my legs and of course, I have freedom of movement. Most importantly, no pain. None. Nada. Zip. No skin breakdowns; no rushing off to wound clinics.
I’ve dropped all my medications. I can walk all day now; before there was no way I could do that. It’s absolutely changed every aspect of my life! There’s nothing stopping me in my work choices or play choices; I don’t have the physical or mental limits I had before.
Tell us about the new limb …
Well, this is most exciting part (Steph clips off the leg and plops it on the table). The top connects to the implanted metal rod via an allen key. Where the ankle would be, there is a rubber like material that allows for shock resistance and also for twist and flex. That attaches to the foot, which is split down the middle to simulate the balance of a natural foot. You would see this technology on Olympic athletes. Then there is a latex type foot that allows for a shoe to be worn. You know, I’ve never had such a feminine foot before! (Laughs). They have even created an attachment for water or shower, and there are many more out there. For the first time in 26 years, I’ve been able to stand up in the shower thanks to being accepted in the new national NDIS scheme.
Any final words?
I’ve been really lucky, because I’ve put my hand up for help and received it. Now it’s my time to give back. Come and say G’day when you see me serving snags at Bunnings as a member of the Armidale Dumerque Lions Club on the weekends!