Freak accident in supermarket car park led to woman's shin ‘exploding’

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read
Helen Way had to have her leg amputated after suffering a freak accident in a supermarket car park. (Caters)
Helen Way had to have her leg amputated after suffering a freak accident in a supermarket car park. (Caters)

A woman whose shin "exploded" following a freak accident in a supermarket car park has revealed her determination not to let her disability define her. 

Helen Way, 49, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, broke her knee by overstepping a kerb while in a supermarket car park 18 months ago.

Following surgery and metal plates to fix the break, Way contracted an infection that led to her lower leg "popping" open and she developed life-threatening sepsis.

Doctors attempted to save the mother-of-one’s leg by carrying out 12 operations, but it was "too damaged" and she had to have it amputated. 

“It was a freak accident as my knee broke in half from overstepping in November 2019," she explains. 

“The doctor said I did a ‘spectacular job’ as I needed plates and screws to repair it.

“I spent 10 days in hospital but when I was discharged, I noticed the scar was weeping."

Read more: Mum 'lucky to be alive' after catching flesh-eating bug while swimming

Way developed sepsis and spent 18 days in ICU. (Caters)
Way developed sepsis and spent 18 days in ICU. (Caters)

Way was prescribed painkillers after her leg started to swell and she began to experience burning sensations, 

On 13 December, during a fracture appointment, she alerted medical staff that she was suffering from sickness and fever. 

“I was worried and concerned about my health as I was vomiting and hadn't eaten for a week," she explains. 

“I was unable to touch my leg and had a fever."

Watch: Mum looking forward to hugging children again after losing limbs to sepsis. 

A blood test revealed Way had a serious infection and she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.  

It was there she experienced what she describes as a "pop and a sudden release". 

“My lower leg exploded - it was disgusting," she says. 

“It was oozing with blood and puss all night whilst I waited for surgery in the morning.

“The bed was wet, it was absolutely foul.”

Read more: Mum who lost all four limbs to sepsis will soon be able to hug her children thanks to bionic arms

Helen Way, 49, received her prosthetic leg in Oct 2020. (Caters)
Helen Way, 49, received her prosthetic leg in October 2020. (Caters)

Despite multiple surgeries to clean the wound, it continued to bleed.

During this time, Way had become delirious and was diagnosed with florid sepsis.

Her condition was described as critical and she was taken into intensive care as her organs began to shut down.

Way was in intensive care for 18 days and, while there, doctors also discovered she had a rare drug interaction, known as pyroglutamic acidosis, which was also contributing to her critical condition.

“As soon as this was diagnosed they were able to start treating me correctly and further operations were more successful," Way explains. 

“Unfortunately there was damage to the cartilage, partly due to the tear, and the leg required cutting away due to the infection, meaning that amputation was my only option," she continues. 

“It was a combination of everything that had happened, not just sepsis.

"For me, it was a no brainer as I could either live my life in pain with poor mobility because my knee was severely damaged - or have it off and start again."

Read more: Baby loses his limbs to sepsis following an undiagnosed throat infection

Helen Way on holiday prior to her accident. (Caters)
Helen Way on holiday prior to her accident. (Caters)

Way received her prosthetic leg in October 2020.

"It has been hard, but I am a positive person," she says. 

"I am lucky to have supportive friends and family.

"I wouldn't have been able to get through this without my incredible partner Andy, daughter Jess and my mum. They have been my rocks.

"I've faced some challenges and my independence has been altered but I am determined not to be defined by my disability."

Additional reporting Caters.

Watch: Teenager who was crushed by a forklift truck opens up about amputation.