Teenager tells of agonising ordeal

Leanne Mackereth, 19,  from Whittington Farm, who has had several health set backs after having her leg amputated.
Leanne Mackereth, 19, from Whittington Farm, who has had several health set backs after having her leg amputated.

As a 14-year-old, Lauren Mackereth was taken to hospital with what was believed to be a routine ankle break, suffered during a game of netball at school.

But five years later Lauren faces life as an amputee, after surgeons were left with no option but to remove part of her left leg due to infection.

Leanne Mackereth, 19,  from Whittington Farm, who has had several health set backs after having her leg amputated.

Leanne Mackereth, 19, from Whittington Farm, who has had several health set backs after having her leg amputated.

Lauren suffered years of agony. Now 19, she has been unable to complete her education after the life-threatening condition halted her progress.

Lauren, who lives in Whittington, was initially diagnosed as having a sprained ankle by Westmorland General Hospital (WGH).

Nine days later it was put in plaster, but when this was removed Lauren was unable to walk on the foot, and the ankle failed to respond to physiotherapy.

Her foot had also twisted around and fixed in position, meaning it was impossible for the teenager to put any weight on it.

Lauren’s parents Liz and Edward decided to take their daughter to a private hospital in Manchester, where an orthopaedic consultant said the broken bones had caused tendon damage and smashed cartilage.

However, following an ankle arthroscopy Lauren’s ankle became infected and as a result her leg developed cellulitis – a skin infection caused by bacteria – and lymphoedema, localised fluid retention and tissue swelling.

Lauren was eventually diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome and advised to have intensive physiotherapy at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).

By this stage Lauren’s foot was becoming increasingly inverted and sore and she suffered several bad reactions to pain relief.

Lauren was put in a series of casts by the RLI in an attempt to return the foot to its proper position, but these left her in agony and suffering severe and uncontrollable leg spasms.

At one stage Mrs Mackereth had to drag her daughter around the house on sheets and blankets because Lauren couldn’t stand.

At their wit’s end, the family decided to seek help from a private specialist in London.

“The doctors in London were absolutely broken-hearted when they saw her,” Mrs Mackereth said.

X-rays confirmed Lauren’s foot was stuck in a deformed position.

Walking on the side of her foot, as she said she had been told to do, meant her weight had damaged the position. This meant Lauren faced ankle reconstruction surgery, a procedure which involved bone being removed and the foot being turned around.

However, an E-Coli cellulitis infection meant Lauren’s life was at risk and surgeons had no option but to remove the leg just below the knee. This was carried out last April at the private London Bridge Hospital.

Lauren is now undergoing rehab and awaiting a new prosthetic leg after also contracting a serious infection from her first false leg.

“I just can’t believe that someone could have a fall and their leg ends up like it did,” Mrs Mackereth said. “Lauren has been through so much with no support, and it’s exceptionally sad that so many mistakes can be made.”

“It makes me angry to think about what I have been through,” Lauren said. “I watched myself go through hell. I was literally pulling my hair out with the pain and no one believed me.” Mrs Mackereth added: “It’s been a nightmare from beginning to end but it’s not finished for Lauren because her life has completely changed. People have asked how we kept our sanity but I am just hoping that one day Lauren will get some justification and closure.”

NHS Cumbria, which oversees the GP surgeries in Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale and Bentham which have treated Lauren, said: “Lauren and her family have had a very difficult and distressing time; however, to protect patient confidentiality we cannot discuss individual cases.

“We can confirm that NHS Cumbria has met with the family to discuss Lauren’s medical care.

“NHS Cumbria cannot comment on treatment and care a patient may receive from private specialists; however, in any circumstance where a patient disagrees with the advice and course of treatment prescribed by their NHS doctor, or believes they have not had access to the right treatments and advice, we would always encourage them to discuss this further with their doctor and if necessary take the issue further to their PCT as in this case.”

George Nasmyth, medical director at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the RLI and WGH, said: “We are sorry that Miss Mackereth and her family are unhappy with the care she received. Sometimes fractures are very difficult to pick up on an x-ray, especially in children.

“We have had extensive conversations with the family to try to understand what happened and they have had the option to obtain external, professional advice.

“If there are any other issues that we can help with, we would encourage the family to contact us directly to discuss further.”

Lauren is now hoping to get her life back on track, and is planning to study hairdressing and beauty therapy at college.

“It’s been a hell of a five years but I am still here,” she said.