British triathlete Hannah Moore had a routine procedure for an ingrowing toenail when she was 15, but it triggered a rare, condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) that made her life a misery for four years. She couldn’t walk, was in pain on a daily basis and eventually chose and paid to have her leg amputated. Hannah is now part of the GB Paratriathlon team and even though she only did her first ever triathlon in 2017, she’s since become 2x World Champion and has high hopes of competing at a Paralympics one day.
*The pain she had to live with on a daily basis after having treatment for ingrowing toenail
*Why Hannah chose to have her leg amputated
*How her life has changed for the better, since becoming an amputee
*The emotion of learning to walk again and being able to lie under a duvet pain free
*How she had planned to become a top chef before getting into triathlon
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INTERVIEW TIME LINE* (not the whole episode)
01.00 Hannah talks about how she got into triathlon
I got into triathlon a bit by accident, I was never into sport that much as a kid, I did a little bit of karate as a kid, but nothing related to triathlon at all. It wasn’t until after an injury that meant I was unable to walk and it caused a condition called CRPS and it meant that I couldn’t really use my leg, it caused a lot of pain. It was after trying a few different sports, I came across a few people who had done paratriathlon and I thought ‘wow, that’s amazing’ but it was one of those things that I wanted to do, but I had to put aside and it was only after I got my leg amputated that I decided to give it a go.
1.00 Why did you have to have your leg amputated?
In 2012, I had a procedure to remove an ingrowing toenail and that triggered something called CRPS which is complex regional pain syndrome. For the first few years, it caused a lot of pain, my foot was hyper sensitive, I couldn’t really walk properly, I could only walk on the outside of my foot and after about two years it started causing ulcers in my foot and affected the blood supply. I had about 50 operations to try to fix it, but none of them really worked so after four years I elected to have my leg amputated, in the hope that it would improve my quality of life.
2.10 I hadn’t heard of CRPS until I was diagnosed with it. Because it was diagnosed really early, I thought ‘oh, it’ll just be a few weeks or a few months, and then I’ll be fine to carry on, because at the time I was at school doing my GCSEs, with plans for the future and things, I didn’t quite realise that it would change everything.
3.00 How tough was it?
For the first two years, I could carry on with normality and what I had planned as I had a scholarship to go and be a chef, so I still went and did that. I was still able to do what I wanted to do and I tried not to let it affect me. It wasn’t until two years down the line when I couldn’t carry on doing the chef thing I was doing. The last two years were definitely the hardest because I was having all of these operations, but none of them were really working, so it was really hard and I was 16 at the time and there was a lot of things I couldn’t do by myself.
5.45 Talks about the decision to have her leg amputated
“It was a decision that took a lot of thinking and a lot of time. When my family saw everything I was going through and that none of the treatments were making any progress, eventually it became an easier decision because even if the ulcers had cleared, I wouldn’t have been able to use my foot properly.
My life is unrecognisable now, compared to then and even though it was done privately, there is still a risk that the condition could come back. In the early days we weren’t 100% sure that the condition wouldn’t come back, although almost straight away the CRPS pain wasn’t there anymore.
8.30 Talks about a new lease of life after having her leg amputated
Even before the amputation, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do. I wanted to walk again because I hadn’t walked for two years, I wanted to go out with my friends. There was a lot of things I had put on hold and I tried to use it as goals to target really. I think the biggest thing was being able to walk again, but that didn’t happen straight away as because I hadn’t walked for so long, I had to built up the strength again and I had to wait to get my prosthetic fitted. The first thing that was a big thing was sleeping in bed with my duvet just flat because I could never sleep with the duvet on my foot because it caused too much pain and then when I first went home and I could sleep normally! It’s just little things.
1030 What’s it like learning to walk again?
“For me it was really emotional, but really exciting because it was the beginning of a normal life and getting back to doing what I wanted to do. It was difficult, especially not having walked for so long and getting back to walking unaided was pretty exciting.
1130 Getting the prosthetic on for the first time
I think I just cried because I was actually stood up and walking and it was such a great feeling that I could do that because before the amputation, a lot of people had said I wouldn’t be able to wear a prosthetic because the CRPS would come back.
1245 On doing her first triathlon in 2017
“It was ten months after my amputation and it was on the list of things I had wanted to do. It was something I wanted to do, but had to postpone. I found the run so hard because I have never been a runner and running on a normal every day NHS prosthetic is quite hard! But I just enjoyed every minute and crossing the line felt like the biggest achievement ever and I just felt super happy.”
1415 How does it compare running on a blade, compared to running on a normal every day prosthetic?
“The impact on my shin bone is very different. The blade as you run compresses, so it takes some of the impact, whereas I found that running on a normal prosthetic tended to bruise the end of my leg. It’s really hard work and even now, if I run to the bus on my every day prosthetic, I can’t even imagine how I ran 2.5km on it! I got a prosthetic before getting on to the GB Para triathlon squad. I was lucky that I had got involved with some disability sport charities and I met two people called Mark Pattenden and Kelly Jackson through that and they were looking to raise money for someone else to get a running blade and they did a load of challenges to help me get my first blade. it’s crazy to think now where I would be if they hadn’t helped me out in the first place. It’s crazy to think it all started with them. It depends, but a blade would cost thousands of pounds, definitely more than £5,000 ! Mark and Kelly both came to my first triathlon and it’s cool they have been on this journey too.
1700 Talks about her scholarship to become a chef at a 5 star hotel
“I did about 18 months before I started getting all of the ulcers in my foot and went back to doing a bit of it after my amputation but it wasn’t quite the same and I started getting more involved in sport.”
1930 Hannah describes what her training looks like each week and talks about studying again. “It’s been difficult returning to academic work, especially to start with as it was six years since leaving school, so it was a bit of a shock, but now I am grateful to have something else as well as training, so I have something else to do which is nice, so it’s not all about just one thing.”
2130 What have you learned most about yourself over the past few years?
“I’m a lot stronger and more determined than I ever thought I was. Now I think I can do anything that I put my mind to and I think I have demonstrated that in triathlon too. When I am racing, I focus on what I am doing in the moment, what I am there to do and what I want to do. It’s only afterwards that you look back at what you’ve achieved. I’d like to make a [Paralympics} Games one day and prove what I can do.