Lisa Ramos was hit by a forklift truck on the 24th March 2006. This is a date that is engraved on her memory forever. Not because it was the date of her only son’s 13th birthday, but because it was the day she became an ‘amputee’. Here, she tells the story of how one tragic moment in time has caused a lifetime of heartache and devastated generations of her family.
The morning of Friday 24th March was the last time I remember being completely pain free and totally at ease in my own skin and body. It was supposed to be a happy day – my son was becoming a teenager and we had a special party planned for him that night. I’d gotten up early to watch Kieran open his presents before going to work at my job in the warehouse where both myself and my husband Dave were employed. The day was uneventful and when the end of my shift rolled around at 3.30pm, I’d already started to look forward to the celebrations ahead.
Looking back now, I recall hearing a beeping sound that had caused me to glance over my left shoulder which I think is what saved my life. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, having been knocked over by a 2.5 tonne forklift truck. I was screaming out in agony and shouting for the driver to ‘get off me’ so he shunted the truck forward just as all the shop floor lads came running over to try and help. They assured me I had only dislocated my knee and I truly believed them, fighting back the tears despite the excruciating pain.
They’d called Dave and an ambulance and I remember him rushing in and cradling my head and crying which I thought was odd despite my obvious agony because I’ve hardly ever seen my husband cry. All I could think about at that moment was that we would have to cancel Kieran’s party and how disappointed he would be. I had no idea it would be the last day I’d ever work with that group of lads who’d tried so desperately to keep the fact that my foot was hanging off from me, and who would go on to experience flashbacks and require counselling themselves.
When I got to the hospital, I was in so much pain and dazed from all the painkillers. There were doctors, nurses and the surgeon. The surgeon that would alter my life beyond all recognition. The one who told me that they would have to operate and that my foot would probably have to be amputated. I struggled to process it and to be honest, I thought it was probably a ‘worst-case scenario’ type of situation. Hours later, he’d removed my foot. Four days later he’d removed my leg. I woke up after the second operation to find myself back on that cold concrete warehouse floor with my foot being crushed under the weight of the forklift truck all over again. I’d never heard of ‘phantom limb pain’ where the brain re-lives the pain of your experience over and over and over again in a perpetual nightmare where the only relief comes in the form of even stronger painkillers.
That first month in the hospital was the worst. My new ‘amputee’ title and status made me feel physically sick. The sight of my newly acquired ‘stump’ also made me feel physically sick. It felt like I’d gone to sleep and woken up a week later as a completely different person in a new body that I loathed and with a bitter outlook that I couldn’t control. All my dignity had been stripped away and I became totally dependent on those around me, especially Dave. The struggle continued when I got home and the pain and constant exhaustion from doing the simplest tasks like going to the bathroom completely overwhelmed me.
In the year that followed, I became angry and more aggressive, taking nearly 40 tablets a day just to relieve the pain. The skin grafts were excruciating, and I had to learn to walk again on a prosthetic leg. That time was the darkest period of my life and I often wished I’d been killed that day. My relationship with Dave changed as he took on the role of carer, but the worst consequence of my accident was the impact it had on Kieran. I was totally consumed with self-pity and rage about what had happened to me and I got so lost in it that I truly lost all focus on my son. Left to his own devices, and with Dave trying his best to care for me, his behaviour began to deteriorate and eventually changed the course of his life.
To this day, I suffer with OCD, PTSD, anxiety and bouts of depression which caused me to gain weight and has restricted me to a wheelchair for 4 years on and off since the accident. I have had 6 operations in total, my last one was targeted muscle reinnervation, where my nerve was rerouted in the hope that it would grow into the muscle, to stop the phantom pain. Unfortunately for me, this caused unimaginable pain but it has improved the appearance of my stump and resolved some of the deep-rooted issues I had with the way it looked.
The impact on my family has been the worst – beyond devastating especially for Kieran. I took my eye off the ball when he needed me most but when you’re in constant pain and deeply depressed, the repercussions it’s having on those around you simply isn’t on your radar.
It’s taken 15 years to come to terms with what happened to me and feel somewhat comfortable in my own skin. I still suffer with debilitating pain and lack the energy to do all the things I want to. I’ve taken over 70,000 tablets since my accident which could eventually take their toll on my internal organs but it’s the chance I’m willing to take to achieve a level of relief in order to live my life, because life does go on.
It might sound daft but one of the things I miss the most since my accident is dancing. I used to love to dance the night away and I was always the first one on the dancefloor and the last to leave it. That carefree feeling of freedom and total abandonment is gone. Don’t get me wrong, I can still make it to the dance floor but these days I have to be carried there.
Today Lisa Ramos is a guest speaker at health and safety conferences and employer events, alongside her husband, David Garton. Together, they raise awareness about the hidden costs of workplace accidents and the devasting impact it can have on the family, friends and colleagues of the victim.
As a parent, it doesn’t matter if your child is 2 or 20; when they hurt themselves you want to help them get back up on their feet again but what happens if you can’t? The worry, stress, and even guilt that stems from not being able to ‘make it all better’ can take its toll on a parent’s wellbeing as you struggle to support your injured child in any way you can. Here, Lisa’s parents and step-parents re-live the moment they were told about Lisa’s accident, and open up about their emotional and practical responses - both then and now.
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