Amie Wemyss was sightseeing on holidays in Hobart when she slipped over and hurt her knee. While the pain was excruciating, even she could not have imagined just how severe the injury really was.
That simple trip resulted in the 26-year-old having her right leg amputated above the knee less than three weeks after the accident in November.
“I thought maybe it was something simple, or at worst case a broken leg,” she said. “They took me to hospital, did an MRI and saw I had severed the artery behind my knee, fractured the patella, and dislocated the knee as it hyperextended.”
But it didn’t end there.
The damage was so severe that, as Ms Wemyss was wheeled in to surgery at Royal Hobart Hospital, doctors started talking about possible amputation.
“I was terrified I might wake up with no leg, but when I woke up I had a frame bolted to my leg. They couldn’t reattach the artery so they bypassed it.
“When I then woke up the next day there was a lump in my leg which was compartment syndrome, with swollen muscles, and they had to cut open both sides of my leg to release the pressure,” she said.
From there a nasty infection took hold which required several surgeries in an attempt to contain it.
“They just kept going, kept treating it. I had hyperbaric treatment and the doctors tried so hard but by the end they just came and said they would give me a choice whether to keep my leg, but it wasn’t really a choice.”
“I had 2 ½ weeks of surgery and hoped maybe a miracle would happen, but we all kind of picked up on the fact it wasn’t going to work but in the back of my mind I hoped they were going to fix it.”
Coming from a close family, Ms Wemyss’ sisters and brother had travelled to Hobart to support her during her difficult hospital stay and were there when surgeons broke the news that she would lose her leg.
In all, including the amputation, Ms Wemyss had seven surgeries before being transferred back to Ballarat to start to rebuild her life.
“I will be a completely different person and I’m kind of sad that I’m not the person I was, but I think it will be better because I don’t take things for granted,” she said.
The government will fund a basic prosthetic leg for Ms Wemyss but, being young and active, she will be better suited to a more high-tech option.
So her niece Hannah Wemyss-Sanderson started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $20,000 toward a new leg for her aunt.
“It will make me move better and because I’m so young I don’t want to just toddle along, I want to be able to do what I used to do – to run, swim and go to the gym,” she said.
“The government will look at it but I’ll have to justify why I need it and they can say no, or only fund part of it,” she said.
The fundraising campaign received pledges of more than $5000 within the first 48 hours.
”It’s a really lovely gesture that people are willing to donate to help me have a better future,” said an emotional Ms Wemyss.
“There are computerised legs that learn your pattern of walking and make it easier to have a natural walk. Because I’m young and active it would just make everything so much easier.”
A waterproof leg is also a priority so she can swim.
Her employers and workmates at Coles Sebastopol, and all Coles stores in Ballarat, are holding an Amie’s Day fundraising day on Friday to support Ms Wemyss.
And they have promised to keep her job open for when she can return.
For now though her job is to learn how to live as an amputee.
“I need to retrain my brain .. to mimic a normal knee and walking action. I need to train my brain to do that automatically but it’s mentally and physically exhausting.”
And when she is fully healed, Ms Wemyss wants to fill a gap in the medical system she never knew existed until her accident – as a mentor to other young amputees.
“If younger people like me are terrified about what is happening, I want to go and help that person because I know what they are going through.”