Imagine a leg ulcer patient: she has some mobility problems and is in chronic pain. She is on strong analgesics, yet the pain sometimes wakes her at night. She cannot do everything she would like to as her condition prevents her from being on her feet for long. She must attend the hospital every week for dressing changes and blood tests as she is also on anticoagulants.
Now, let’s imagine a mum in her 20s. She has different daily struggles of tantrums, mealtimes and balancing the accounts for her family business. She has interrupted sleep as her young children regularly wake in the night.
Her children take up all her time as she doesn’t have any childcare and her family live over 200 miles away. Her husband works very long hours for the business.
Could this ever be the same person?
Yes. They both describe me.
When I was just 20, I suffered a deep vein thrombosis while pregnant with my son and another when he was a few weeks old. Unfortunately, this left me with constant pain in my left leg along with discoloured, paper-thin skin around my ankle. A few years later, I developed an ulcer. This led to over 15 years of suffering.
When this first started, I had no idea what a leg ulcer was or how they were caused. I think there is a massive lack of knowledge in general around leg ulcers. As someone with first-hand experience of the impact a chronic leg ulcer can have on a person’s life, I find this unbelievable and very sad.
Why is it assumed that people with leg ulcers will be old, diabetic, smokers or intravenous drug users? Why do people think that maggots and manuka honey are the answer to healing a leg ulcer? Those are some of the assumptions that I have faced along the way.
When I was attending the hospital every week for dressing changes, I was the youngest there by at least 40 years, so obviously leg ulcers are more prevalent among older people.
However, it does happen to young people too and for this reason, healthcare advice needs to change. Have you ever tried elevating your feet above your heart all day when you are looking after a 6-year-old and a toddler? Not likely and not possible!
Unfortunately, I have also experienced a lack of proper advice from health professionals. For example, the pharmacist who didn’t advise me correctly in the first instance. Had I been advised to visit the GP in the very beginning when I first told him about the non-healing wound I had, the ulcer may not have developed as it did.
I also had a bad experience with a practice nurse who did not know how to apply the compression bandaging properly. I was left with extremely painful dents all down my leg as a result. Compression bandaging was difficult anyway because after a few days, they would have moved down my leg and were quite uncomfortable.
Thank goodness for hosiery kits – they are so much better. Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to be looked after by an amazing team at my local hospital, Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, but I know that others aren’t as fortunate.
Having a chronic leg ulcer has affected my life in many ways— mainly my self-confidence. Being in my 20s and 30s and feeling old and unattractive was really hard. When the ulcer was at its worst, I could hardly walk. I couldn’t drive at the time and struggled to take my children to school myself. It was very hard not to slip into depression. Luckily, I am a very positive person and I feel that this, along with my wonderful family and friends, has got me through.
In the last few weeks, after a wonderful new treatment (EpiFix), my ulcer has actually healed, which is something I had never imagined happening. I can hardly bring myself to believe it!
Some say that life begins at 40 and for me, it will.