A Glenarm native who feared she might lose her legs after being stricken by illness during a New York holiday has thanked local fundraisers for enabling her family to visit her.
Leanne Montgomery, who now lives in Ballycarry, has spent the past nine weeks receiving treatment at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York after falling ill with compartment syndrome.
The syndrome normally occurs after a broken bone or fracture, and causes the fascia between the muscles to tighten and compress the muscle, cutting off blood supply.
Reliving her experience, Leanne told the Times how an enjoyable family with her partner David Haveron and friends rapidly turned into a nightmare.
“I had been there for three days before the pain started,” she recalled.
“It was like my legs were tightening to such a point that I couldn’t move or stretch them.
“It got worse pretty rapidly. On Wednesday night when we went to bed it was just a bit annoying but in the early hours over the space of half an hour or so it went downhill and was very very painful.
“It started in my right leg but by Thursday morning it had affected both legs, so it was pretty scary.
“On the way to hospital I was distraught, firstly because I couldn’t walk at this stage and secondly because I thought I was going to pass out in pain and I was terrified I would die.”
When Leanne arrived at the hospital, doctors feared they would have to amputate both her legs and feet after failing to find a pulse in either limb.
“Hearing the doctor say I might lose my legs and feet literally knocked the wind out of me,” she recalled.
“I was full of morphine and drifting in and out of consciousness so it seemed a bit surreal.
“I just remember thinking: “This can’t be real, I was absolutely fine yesterday, how can I lose my legs?’
“It was pretty terrifying.”
Thankfully, doctors were able to save Leanne’s legs by carrying out a fasciotomy, cutting them open to relieve the pressure and encourage blood flow back into the legs.
A few weeks later, medics closed up the wounds with skin grafts, and replaced muscle and tissue in her right leg with revolutionary skin material Integra.
Leanne is set to undergo further operations including a skin graft when the Integra adjusts to her body and a blood supply has been established.
In the meantime, Leanne, who trains at Larne’s Warehouse gym and has won awards including the NIFMA Miss toned and the sports section, has created the ironically-named blog “leglessinnyc” to chart her journey to recovery.
Despite being over 3,000 miles away, the communities of Larne and Ballycarry have rallied round Leanne and her family, raising £5,218 to cover expenses and enable family members to fly out to visit her.
A bake sale by Glenarm Village Committee in Glenarm Baptist Church, together with donations on the day, raised a remarkable £2,365.
Meanwhile, a You Caring page set up by Leanne’s friend Dee Moorhead to cover expenses relating to medical bills, flights and accommodation has raised £2,918.
Chairperson of Glenarm Village Committee Frances Wilson told the Times: “What happened to Leanne was an awful shock. It is marvellous how everybody helped out and it shows the generosity of our wee village. When someone is in trouble we all pull together.
“We were also able to put Leanne and her partner David in touch with the Schleiff family who have helped them on so many levels.”
Paying tribute to the fundraisers, Leanne described their efforts as “a massive help.”
She commented: “ I have had colleagues from the fitness industry, close friends and the community of Glenarm and Ballycarry all chip in with fundraisers. People have been so generous and have donated whatever they can.
“I am totally overwhelmed by the support I have had and really appreciate all of the fundraising.
“I have to say a massive thank you to all the people in Glenarm, they have rallied together and shown me the most unbelievable support, I am so proud to be a part of that community and I want to thank each and every single person from the bottom of my heart.
“I also need to thank the very special friends and colleagues who have gone out of their way to help out too,
“The fundraising has meant that I have been able to have my family out to visit and spend time with me.
“That’s how important that money has been and why I’m so appreciative of everybody’s efforts, as beacuse of their help I have been able to have the most important people in my life around me when I needed them,” she concluded.
To donate, visit Dee Moorhead’s “Help our Leanne” page at www.youcaring.com.