From January 1997
Stuart William John Holt, Chairman Limbless Association
At the age of 62 I was working as a plumbing and heating engineer and looking forward to retirement. Then on 8th January 1997 I was at work locally and at about 4pm was not feeling well so I made the decision to go home.
I went to bed. When my wife, Sue, came home at 5.30pm she asked me what was wrong. I explained I didn’t feel well, my feet were very cold and I was feeling faint. At about 6.30pm Sue phoned the doctor who luckily arrived at about 7.15pm. He took one look at me, asked if I was allergic to penicillin, gave me an injection and called the ambulance. That was the last thing I remember for two weeks.
The ambulance ride to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton was extremely fast with blue lights flashing. Tests including a lumber punch were carried out in Accident and Emergency department of the hospital. After diagnosing that I had Meningitis Type B there were no intensive care beds available in Brighton. The nearest was in Winchester, 80 miles away, or a hospital in Kent but as it was snowing it was decided Winchester would be best as the roads would be better.
I was put in the ambulance with a doctor and medical staff and all the equipment, so there was no room for Sue. It was a case of phoning a friend to drive her to Winchester. Sue stayed in Winchester for the two weeks during which time I was in an induced coma. During this time my left leg was amputated below the knee due to gangrene and my right leg was not in a good state. Once I had come out of the coma we returned to Brighton, but this time with Sue in the ambulance with me.
Back in the Royal Sussex County Hospital they tried to save my right leg by debriding which failed. I was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where they carried out a muscle graft and skin graft. However this failed and my right leg was amputated below the knee. After a further two weeks I was transferred back to the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
My stay in hospital was until the end of April 1997 when I returned home with a wheelchair. I then attended the Sussex Rehabilitation Centre to have my prosthetic limbs made. I was given walking practice twice a week until I was relatively proficient on them. In September 1997 I was finally able to bring my prosthetic limbs home and use them at home.
We tried to live as normal life as possible including going on holiday at Christmas to Tenerife with my wife’s parents who had an apartment there. I was able to swim in the pool which felt so good.
In 1998 we started to raise funds for the Meningitis Trust by giving talks to local Lions and Rotary Clubs. Then in 1999 whilst reading the Meningitis Trust magazine I saw an article headed “What are you doing for the Millennium”. It suggested we climb Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Despite opposition from my wife and family I set about raising the funds of £3,500 to enable me to go. I was the oldest and the only amputee in the party. The mountain is 23,000 feet and I made it to 17,000 feet before the leader made me stop. I managed to raise £10,500 for the Meningitis Trust.
I started to volunteer at the Brighton Limb Centre running the tea and coffee bar and also talking to new amputees as they came in. The Manager asked some of the patients to start a User Group called Coasting Together for the amputees who use the Centre. We raise funds for the things the NHS cannot provide.
I then became member of the Limbless Association and after some time I was invited to become a Trustee and for the past two years have been the Chairman. As a member of the Limbless Association I was invited to join the Westminster Cross Party Limb Loss Group which meets four times a year. There we lobby for prosthetic, wheelchairs and special seating by discussing these requirements with NHS England and the Minister of Health.
I was also asked to attend the Paris meeting to start the IC2A.