SOME days he sits on his bed, crying for the leg he lost – but Brian Paddey is also aware of his blessings and says his amputation has given him the chance to help others.
Following a motorbike accident in 2011, the Port Elizabeth civil engineer fought bravely and his doctors tried every conceivable modern medical intervention to save his leg – to no avail. The limb was eventually amputated in January last year.
On January 2 2011 Paddey and two friends set off on a road trip that would irrevocably change his life.
“Every year the three of us would go somewhere for a few days. That year we planned to go to the Augrabies Falls in the far Northern Cape and then to come back to PE along the west coast.”
While driving on the R75 near the Wolwefontein road, barely 120km from home, he was in a horrific accident.
“Something was flapping around my waist. I looked down for a fraction of a second, and in a blink of an eye everything changed,” he said.
All it took was that instant, and not realising that a car with a trailer in front of him was slowing down, for Paddey’s world to shatter.
“I swerved to avoid the trailer. There was a car coming from the front. He swerved too but I was hit on my side, I fell off the bike and I started rolling.
“I can remember absolutely nothing about the accident after that roll and I believe today that God was protecting me in that horrific moment.
“The next thing I remember was thinking: When is this going to stop?”
Paddey rolled about 100m along the tar road. When he got up his leg collapsed beneath him.
While waiting for an ambulance, two women – he calls them angels – stopped to see if they could help.
“They stayed with me. They brought me ice. They put up a towel against the sun. They prayed with me.”
Later doctors told Paddey he had suffered 48 fractures to his leg.
He was taken to Life St George’s Hospital where orthopedic surgeon Dr Colin Audley took over his care.
“He said he could put the bones together, but he was worried about a deep wound in my calf. Coincidentally plastic surgeon Dr Christiaan Joubert was operating next door and Dr Audley asked him to come and have a look.
“They decided that they would try to save my leg.”
Paddey underwent 28 operations, eventually developing an infection in the bone.
“Dr Audley placed these ceramic antibiotic beads into my bones to fight the infection. If you look at my bones on the X-rays it looks like there is a pearl necklace running through them.”
Despite the series of operations Paddey said he “always knew there would be meaning in my accident”.
By his next surgery Paddey found that meaning. “I spent a week at Aurora and the next three years in horrific pain.
“I was popping painkillers all day. I was always on crutches. There were many people praying to God to save my leg. Eventually we came to a stage in January last year where Dr Audley said it would only get better if my leg was amputated.
“The decision was all mine. I decided that it was the right thing to do.”
One day while speaking to Adrian Hubbard from CM Mobility about fitting handrails in his home, Hubbard asked if Paddey had ever spoken about losing his leg. Paddey had not. Hubbard asked Peter Morris, the founder of the Amputee Support Group, to visit Paddey.
“When Peter came to visit, he took his leg off to show me and my wife what it looked like. My wife didn’t even know that he had a prosthetic leg.
“He went through the house with us and recommended where we must install handrails.
“When he left I knew my decision made sense, that this was the right thing for me to do.”
To facilitate the fitting of a prosthetic leg, all the steel that was used to strengthen Paddey’s leg while doctors tried to save it had to be removed. The stubborn bone infection resurfaced and for the next seven months Paddey walked with a vacuum pump around the wound to fight the infection.
“The pump removes any blood or other moisture and also stimulates tissue growth,” he said. It took seven months before he could be fitted for a prosthetic leg.
“Normally this would take six to eight weeks,” he said.
The most valuable lesson he learnt from Morris was to mourn his lost limb.
“My wife Jenny was my rock through all of this. She taught herself how to take care of me by asking the doctors questions. She never liked me driving the motorcycle but even after the accident she never once said, ‘I told you so’.
“Once she said, ‘God whispered and whispered and finally he shouted’. I am so grateful that I had three years to prepare for the loss of my leg. The journey just made the will stronger.
“I am a civil engineer and after my accident I had to close my business. But I want to say this: life does not end if you lose a leg. All it is, is a new chapter.
“All that happened turned out to be an absolute blessing to me.
“I became involved with the Amputee Support Group and we are really going to try and help those without medical aid to access the use of crutches, wheelchairs, walkers and even prosthetic legs,” Paddey said.
“We want to tell them that they do not have to go through it alone.
“We have gone through it and we can help.”
IF YOU are an amputee looking for help or support, or if you want to get involved, you can phone Brian Paddey on 083-2510624 or Peter Morris on 079-895-0968. The Amputee Support Group is also still looking for donations of crutches, walkers or prosthetic legs to donate to patients at Livingstone Hospital.