What’s your name, how old are you? My name is Tracey Parsons, my friends call me T and I am 42 years old.
Who lives with you and how old are they? Tell us a little bit about them what are their favourite colours or hobbies? Currently I am living with my husband Jim, my 17 year old son Jack and my 20 year old son Ben. Jim has been my husband for 20 years, his hobbies include watching Only Fools and Horses, walking our dog Jake, and looking after. our two guinea pigs Bear and Moo. Jack is into going to the cinema, he favourite films are the Star Wars episodes. He enjoys working out. Ben is our gamer. He is into his Playstation 4 and playing games with people all over the world. He also likes WWE and collects WWE memorabilia.
When did you become an amputee? I had an accident in 1998, which was complicated by compartment syndrome and I developed CRPS. I had an elective amputation after 9 years trying to make my foot and ankle workable. In 2007 2 days before my 30th Birthday I was in hospital having my left below knee amputated.
Have you got a name for your “stump”? Haha yeah I call ‘her’ stumpy it just seemed appropriate.
What was the biggest concern of being an amputee? What worried me most were my children becoming young carers. They were only 5 and 7 at the time. But actually although they have helped with little things, we have allowed them to have more freedom than most young carers have. My house was unadaptable also so I had to move but when I did move it turned out okay as we moved into a purpose built disabled house.
Were you able to work as an amputee? How do you spend your days? Unfortunately I have long term enduring mental health needs and up until this point in my life I haven’t worked. Having said that, I am mentally, emotionally and physically becoming better. Since I started exercising my mental health has improved a lot. It is something that I would like to do in my future. I have not wasted my time though, I left school without any qualifications and so embarked on getting educated. Throughout thee last 10 years or so, I have achieved my level 1 and 2 Functional Skills in Literacy, which lead onto me achieving my first GCSE in English Language. I have also achieved level 1 and 2 in Maths. I sat my Maths GCSE but unfortunately missed out by getting a D, but I intend to do it again. I have completed so many small level 2 home learning courses, I have done computer literacy courses (Advanced ECDL), Business and Administration, Equality and Diversity, Customer Service Knowledge, Lean Organisation Techniques. Doing these courses counted towards having enough GCSE equivalents to go to college and learn how to build computers and how to run them. I passed with a Level 2 Diploma in Computing and IT and received a distinction star. Not one to be deterred I during this lockdown period I have been completing more home learning courses including level 3 in Cyber Crime and a level 3 in Criminology. I am wanting to go back to college in September but times are uncertain so it may not be this year.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it? My biggest challenge was adapting to life as an amputee. Although it was my idea and I pushed to become an amputee nobody told me you enter a grieving process even if it is elective. Unfortunately that grieving process lead on me on a trail of self destruction. I sat in my wheelchair and gave up. I didn’t do anything for myself becoming completely reliant on my husband and carer. My smoking increased to becoming a chain smoker, I would binge eat constantly. I was in a complete depression and life was despairing me. Unfortunately due to my lifestyle after my amputation this lead me to developing Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), which means you have too much fluid around the brain which affects your whole life. Daily debilitating headaches, vision loss and other symptoms. I also developed severe asthma and fluid in my lungs because of the amount I was smoking. Which meant, I need to use strong inhalers to keep my breathing good and suffer a lot of chest infections. So how did I overcome it? Well I was being told my weight was causing my IIH but I was in denial. The neurologist went through a catalogue of medications, but the side effects made me feel so unwell. My vision in one eye was so very bad that I had to stop driving. So one day I thought to myself, maybe I should try and see if weight loss would help me. So I started on SlimFast. I am doing the 3,2,1 plan. I tentatively weighed in and I was weighing in at 23 stone. So that was my starting point. At first (from March 2019) I still wasn’t walking so exercise was out. So I just concentrated on losing weight. I pretty quickly lost 4 stone and I had gone into remission with my IIH and started wearing me leg and learning to walk around the house. I felt by August 2019 I was able to add exercise into my weight loss journey. So I joined a gym and that is where I met Harry who is my Personal Trainer at Nuffield Gym Northampton. I spoke to Harry prior to signing up to Personal Training sessions and explained how unfit I was. I pretty much spelt it out but I am not sure even Harry had realised what he was taking on. First thing we did was to get me to cycle on the recumbent exercise bike. I managed 1 minute before stopping and I couldn’t carry on. I was sweating and coughing up a lung. Now (just before the gyms shut for the lockdown) Harry and I had worked on my health and fitness. I could manage to cycle on the upright bike for an hour, I could walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes (holding on), and swim constant for an hour. We also worked to tone my body, so have been working with resistance and weights and I am proud to say I am almost 9 stone lighter than when I started. It wasn’t easy and because it took me a long time to realise that my weight was an issue motivation was a big issue. Even during lockdown Harry has been sending my daily challenges to keep my fitness up. I can now walk outside a little with crutches, I need crutches because i kept falling, but that is because my blood pressure is now low. I have taught myself to ride a bike and can bounce on the trampoline, I also joined wheelchair rugby and play for The Saints Wheelchair Team.I have had the honor of playing an exhibition match at the Quad Nations earlier this year. My attitude has completely changed and I can see how my weight and smoking (which I have so far halved, I am still working on it) was causing my health issues. I feel mentally so much better and physically. I have even regained enough eyesight to drive, but I haven’t started yet. I have made my. family proud and I have made myself proud. Life has done a full turn around in the last 12 months and I have learned that if you want something you have to go out and get it. It is hard to get started, but once you do it feels amazing.
What’s your family’s favourite thing to do? The boys enjoy exercising with me, Jack joined the gym with me. We enjoy going out for a meal and playing games. The boys being older it isn’t so cool to be seen with mum and dad. I sure miss them being little.
Have you got any funny memories that have happened since your amputation? I do have a funny story. I love children asking what happened to my leg. I have come up with some stories and I tell most I was born half robot. But my friends little girl was asking how I lost my leg and I was telling her this tale how. I was running and my leg couldn’t keep up and I had to get a new one. Well my friends little girl went to school and was talking about her holiday at my house and she told her teachers all about me and how I was running and my leg couldn’t keep up. Her teacher had to ask her mum what she was talking about as they didn’t understand. Lesson learned, tell less elaborate stories lol.
When did you come across Steel Bones? What does Steel Bones do for your family? I have been a member of steel Bones for a number of months. I heard about it on another amputee support group. I have found both their website and group have a wealth of information. that has been very useful especially with regards to benefits and support around the lockdown. I like to go on their page and read the posts and follow what others are doing. I have been thinking of joining the coffee mornings they have.
What would you most like to achieve? Small or big is there one thing you hope to accomplish? I have a few goals. I would like to get to my optimum weight which will be about another 5 stone. I would also like to return to study at college. Eventually in the future I would like to find employment, maybe something computer related.