A former gymnast left bed-ridden for years by a rare and painful medical condition is reclaiming her independence with the help of a new donated Acorn Stairlift.
Jess Laughton (23) is preparing for life-changing surgery which will include having her lower left leg amputated. After hearing her extraordinary story, Acorn offered to install a stairlift at her home near Driffield, East Yorkshire, to help her both in the run-up to her surgery and after the amputation. It means she no longer has to rely on her parents to carry her up and down the stairs.
Jess has suffered from ‘complex regional pain syndrome’ for the past 10 years after breaking her ankle at the age of 12, while competing as a gymnast. It has left her in constant pain, needing to take morphine every day. She has also developed an associated neurological condition called ‘dystonia’, which means her foot is stuck in a pointed down position and will not move. Unable to walk, she is reliant on her family for everything, even going to the toilet.
She first asked doctors about the possibility of amputation when she was 15, but was advised it was “early days”. A decade on from her injury and with the NHS unwilling to fund the operation, Jess decided she would have to raise the money herself to have it done privately.
“I am completely bedbound at the moment,” she said. “The operation would allow me to get some independence back. I just want a normal life, to go to work and have my own family.”
Jess has raised more than £10,000 through fundraising events and by launching her own crowdfunding website. Now she is “nervous but excited” about the prospect of surgery, which she is convinced will improve her quality of life.
“I'm not going to miss my leg when it goes because it has caused me so many problems,” she said. “I hope that after the amputation I can get an electric wheelchair which will be better than being bed-bound. I take morphine every two hours and the pain is always there. It's quite sharp and when someone touches my leg it can result in screaming and shouting.”
After seeing press coverage of Jess’s story, staff at West Yorkshire-based Acorn Stairlifts realised one of their award-winning lifts would help her both before and after the operation. Acorn’s assistant UK sales manager Gareth Deegan said: “We were taken aback by Jess’s bravery over such a long period and really happy to help someone in our own region.
“Jess is now booked in for her amputation in March, so when she has the prosthetic leg in place I am sure the stairlift will make a huge difference.”
The curved stairlift was installed within just a few days of Acorn contacting Jess’s family to offer help, and it is already in regular use.
“Before this I had to be carried up and down the stairs by my parents and it has really taken it out of them,” explained Jess. “My stepdad has damaged all of his ligaments in his knee, so it's come at a great time.
“It has already changed my life and is making life so much easier for me and my family, even before the amputation. Once the amputation is done I should be able to use it by myself, so it will allow some independence for me and a bit of normality.”
To see more of Jess’s story featured in her local paper, the Hull Daily Mail, including a video of her explaining her condition, click here.
Our picture (courtesy of Hull Daily Mail) shows Jess trying out her new stairlift with Acorn’s Gareth Deegan and Laura Burbery.