Don't Hold Back': Living Life To The Full As An Amputee

Three different women lead three very different lives as amputees. They tell Georgia Forrester their stories.

It was a moment - just a moment - of inattention, but it almost cost Naomi Jefferies her life.

In September 2017, Naomi remembers being an active and healthy 28-year-old. She loved wakeboarding, snowboarding, hiking, going to the gym and working as a physiotherapist.

One September evening, Naomi returned to her car after a session at her Waikato gym. Her car was parked on a grass verge and she was standing beside it when a passing driver became distracted and plowed into her.

In that moment she was thrown about 7 metres across the road. Her life "forever changed".

For Naomi Jefferies, it's been a long road to recovery, but her story is more than inspiring.

BROKEN AND SHATTERED BUT ALIVE

Naomi says she doesn't remember the accident "but I was awake the whole time apparently from what they've told me".

Her left leg was degloved - the fat and skin had been ripped off, leaving just her muscle exposed. Her left ankle and femur were shattered. All of the breaks in her leg were compound fractures - the bones protruding through skin. The ligaments in both her knees were ruptured, her right foot was broken and her back was also broken in two places.

The ribs on her left-hand side were smashed, she had a flail chest, a collapsed lung, broken sternum, shoulder blade and both her elbow and humerus were shattered.

"Obviously I was quite a mess," she says. But, she was alive.

Naomi is back in the gym and is training to do the swimming part of a triathlon at the end of year.

Following the accident, she spent 10 days in a coma and then three weeks in intensive care. After four months in hospital and about 12 surgeries later, Naomi returned home.

But a bad infection forced her back in hospital. Her ankle was also "broken beyond repair" and would likely be painful in future. So Naomi eventually made the decision to have her left leg amputated below the knee.

The amputation was Naomi's turning point and to this day, she says she has no regrets. "I started to feel a whole lot better, and I was able to move around a lot more and I was in less pain and way more functional without my leg than I had been with it."

Naomi's journey has been long and painful - with 17 surgeries, and more skin grafts to come. She describes it as a rollercoaster with "lots of ups and downs".

Being healthy and active is an important part of her life.

"To start with it was pretty horrendous. I would be down and cry for hours at a time." In the beginning she was also angry with the man who hit her, but a year-and-a-half later, that anger has gone.

"I think when you're presented in a situation like this where it's pretty bloody horrible, you can either dwell on it and sulk about it or you can get on with it." Instead of wasting energy on something she couldn't change, she's focused on her recovery.

Although she still has down days, she knows it's normal and it's all part of the process. "I very nearly died the night I got hit and I think part of me did die, and so [on] those days I sort of feel like I'm mourning that part of me and I think that's totally normal and you've got to allow yourself to do that."

She also reminds herself that she "could have been so much worse off".

It took just a moment for Naomi's life to completely change. But she's working hard to make the absolute most out of it.

Throughout everything, Naomi has been supported by her family and her boyfriend Richard Carter. The pair had only been together for about six months when she was hit. "Overall I was in hospital for four months and he only missed one day the whole time. Such an amazing support. I'm really lucky."

A year and a half has passed since her accident. It can be frustrating not being able to go for a run like she used to, but instead, Naomi swims. She's also back at the gym, training with others. She's planning on taking part in an Ironman in a group at the end of the year, where she'll complete the swimming part of the race. In April, she and Richard will also get married.

Acceptance and confidence have come with time, as well as getting used to people glancing at her leg. "I still feel like we've got a long way ahead of us, but I definitely feel way more myself and that we're definitely getting there now."

Naomi says acceptance and confidence have come with time.

Lastly, her message to those getting behind the wheel: "Everyone gets distracted in a car but cars are super dangerous and just think that you changing a radio station or looking at your phone might result in you ruining someone's life or killing someone.

"People are so used to driving cars these days that they forget that they're considered like a weapon really. And for me - I mean, my whole life was changed that night just because of one moment of inattention."

Read ALL 3 Stories 

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