A woman whose legs were amputated due to a rare condition is struggling to stay in her family home. Her parents are asking for help from the public, as they cannot afford to keep their daughter at home and care for her.
Jo, a double amputee, has to raise thousands of dollars in order to modify her family’s house (Picture: PA Real Life)
Jo Spencer knew something was terribly wrong when the toes on her left foot turned blue.
The 53-year-old has had type one diabetes since she was seven years old and has previously had sores on her legs and feet as a result of the disease, which causes the skin to not heal correctly.
However, as her foot began to turn black, she was taken to the hospital, where doctors informed her that her limb was dying. To preserve her life, they had to amputate her legs.
Jo remained optimistic, reassured by the fact that it was below the knee and only one of her legs was affected – but complications necessitated two more surgeries, the first to take her right leg and the second to remove more of her left leg.
Jo and her husband David, a 53-year-old finance business director, are now collecting funds to modify their family home in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, so she may become self-sufficient and realize her goal of dancing with him in their lovely garden one day.
Before her blood clot in May 2020, Jo was in good health (Picture: PA Real Life)
Jo wants to dance with her spouse once again. (Image courtesy of PA Real Life)
‘I knew it would be amputated the minute I saw the foot,’ Jo, who is the head of customer relations for a financial firm, said.
‘It was still difficult for me to accept the fact that I might lose my leg, but it was essential to preserve my life.’
Jo, a grandma to Theo, three, and Harlow, 15 months, and mother to Holly, 25, a customer service representative, Josh, 21, a help desk analyst, and Ben, 17, a full-time student, first observed the issue in May 2020.
‘Diabetes had caused ulcers on my feet and legs, but this time my left big toe was black and blue.’ ‘It seemed to be in terrible shape,’ she added.
‘I went straight to A&E and was sent to a vascular surgeon.’
Jo is currently attempting to collect money in order to remain in her family’s house (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘Initially, I was sent home to wait for an appointment, but as my foot became worse, my GP sent me to Sunderland Royal Hospital, which has a vascular surgeon on staff.’
Jo had a rare blood clot in her aorta artery, which had blocked the blood flow to her leg, according to blood tests and a CT scan.
Jo’s left leg was amputated below the knee when she was admitted for surgery on May 2, 2020.
‘The operation went well, and I was eager to go home,’ she said.
‘While I healed, we planned to relocate the bed to the living room.’
Jo, seen above with granddaughter Harlow, now 15 months, was determined to walk again with the love and support of her family. (Image courtesy of PA Real Life)
However, Jo began to have discomfort in her right leg, which worsened over time.
‘At first, I thought it was sciatica or a muscular discomfort, but when I informed the nurses, they immediately contacted the physicians.’
‘My right leg was becoming chilly and I was losing my pulse, so I was rushed back to the operating room for exploratory surgery to determine whether it could be saved.’
Unfortunately, Jo’s health quickly worsened, and her life was on the line.
‘On the 13th of May 2020, they phoned David and said, ‘We have to amputate the right leg immediately.’
‘It was a nightmare. Because I was on a lot of pain medication, I had no clue what was going on.
Jo is now awaiting the arrival of her prostheses (Collect/PA Real Life). PA Real Life is the service provider. PA Real Life is the source of this information (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘I didn’t realize what had occurred until I awoke in the hospital after surgery. I was in a bad mood.
‘I was in such a deep despair because I didn’t know how I was going to survive without both of my legs.’
‘I was so welcoming, but my optimism was founded solely on the fact that I still had my right leg.’
She was released from the hospital a week later, but due to a new problem, she had to return for surgery to remove more of her left leg.
She said, ‘They had glued the incision together instead of sewing it, and it wasn’t healing correctly.’
‘I was emphatic that I didn’t want an amputation above the knee, but physicians argued that there was no other option.’ There were no other options, and the skin was withering.
‘On June 11, 2020, I was readmitted for surgery to undergo a further amputation of my left leg above the knee. It seemed endless, but I reached a point when I needed to concentrate on my recuperation.’
She began physiotherapy to improve her core strength after her third discharge because she was determined to walk again with prostheses.
Jo is now walking on ‘stubbies,’ which are metal rods with a slight foot. They are assisting her in learning to walk as she awaits the fabrication of her prostheses, which she expects to get within the next three months.
She said, ‘Stubbies are the first step in learning to walk with prostheses.’
‘Learning to walk with prostheses, particularly after an above-knee amputation, is very difficult.
Jo is seen with her husband, David, and their children. (Image courtesy of PA Real Life)
An NHS occupational therapist and a local council surveyor paid her a visit as part of her rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, they determined that her home was inappropriate for the modifications they would offer, forcing her family to either leave the property they had lived in for 14 years or foot the cost for further significant adaptations.
‘Our house is full with wonderful memories,’ she added.
‘In the kitchen, we do a dance together. Our children grew up there, and our grandkids are creating memories there now. It’s where we call home.
‘It was heartbreaking to contemplate leaving our house after so much upheaval. I didn’t want to uproot my two youngest children, so I stayed at home.
‘However, without modifications, I won’t be able to walk upstairs or even outside in the garden.’ The kitchen must be renovated, and a lift must be built so that I can access the upper floors.
Jo is seen here with her two grandkids, Theo, who is three years old, and Harlow, who is 15 months old (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘Even now that I’ve returned to work, where everyone has been kind, we simply can’t afford the upfront costs of adjusting things.’ We need £50k to begin with for a back-of-house lift and kitchen renovations, so we decided to attempt to crowdfund the funds.’
Jo and David have set up a GoFundMe campaign to attempt to raise the funds.
Dancing with David again is one of the major things that keeps Jo motivated.
‘We like dancing,’ she said.
‘Now David picks me up and swings me about in the kitchen, but it’s not the same.
Additional Information: Health
‘Because we missed our 25th wedding anniversary last year, I want to have a huge party at our house with all of our friends and family, and I want to be able to dance with him while wearing prosthetics.’
‘Right now, it’s tough since the home is difficult to traverse and I sleep downstairs.’ The entire family has had to adapt, but David and my children have kept me going.
‘I’m committed to be self-sufficient and live my life to the fullest, and we’ll be able to do so by collecting this money to remain in the family home.’
‘And my fantasy of dancing with David once again becomes a little closer.’
To contribute to Jo’s fundraising efforts, go here.
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