UNLUCKY: Paula Gowland lost a leg after breaking her leg changing curtains.
UNLUCKY: Paula Gowland lost a leg after breaking her leg changing curtains. Patrick Woods

Curtain-change amputee's next major setback

IT'S been another hellish year for Coast mother-of-three and amputee Paula Gowland.

As her legal matters continue with the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and a visiting orthopaedic surgeon over her initial treatment back in 2014, Paula has spent most of this year in hospital battling infection and losing more of her left leg.

Paula's been in Royal Brisbane Hospital from April to May before spending a month in Nambour General Hospital.

The former outrigger was then laid up in a Sydney hospital from June to November, as her options to fight constant infections in her leg ran out.

 

REBUILDING: From left, Ashlee, 13, Jess, 18, Eathan, 7, Paula and husband John back in November, 2014.
REBUILDING: From left, Ashlee, 13, Jess, 18, Eathan, 7, Paula and husband John back in November, 2014. Patrick Woods

On the strongest medication she could get and hooked up to an IV drip, the decision was made to remove another 10cm of her left leg, meaning she is now an above-knee amputee.

It all began with the simple act of changing curtains in mid-2014 at the Gowland's Kawana Island home.

She fell about 60cm, landing on her feet, but broke her left leg in four places. Complications followed which resulted in her leg being amputated below the knee as compartment syndrome set in.

Since then she has had almost constant operations and infections, but as Christmas arrives on our doorstep, Paula can see some relief coming.

Surgeons have finally been satisfied with her recovery and she is infection-free, although still doing rehab three days a week.

After six weeks in a rehab hospital Paula has learned to walk again, with a rod in her femur allowing an artificial leg to help get her around again.

Her new leg arrives in January and for the first time in a long time the family is back together again.

"I'll be able to walk hands-free soon," she said.

 

Paula lost her leg in a freak accident last year, now she's looking at taking legal action against the new hospital over the amputation. Shine Lawyers Senior Solicitor John Watson meeting with John and Paula Gowland. Photo: Che Chapman / Sunshine Coast Daily
Paula lost her leg in a freak accident last year, now she's looking at taking legal action against the new hospital over the amputation. Shine Lawyers Senior Solicitor John Watson meeting with John and Paula Gowland. Photo: Che Chapman / Sunshine Coast Daily Che Chapman

She's had to give up on continuing her outrigging, the risk of infection too high, but hoped to take up wheelchair basketball next year.

While there may be recovery in sight, the last two-and-a-half years has left plenty of scars harder to see.

She still needs about $50,000 for her proper leg, with some major fundraising needed to make it a reality.

The family has had to leave its Kawana Island home and relocate to a more access-friendly home in Buderim, while her children have struggled without their mother for the best part of 12 months.

Her son, Eathan, is struggling with the further amputation leaving Paula with a leg she said was pretty much metal now, while her youngest daughter Ashlee has had a tough year of high school without her mother nearby.

Paula's husband John has had to give up on his business, taking a job with an event company working around the kids' timetables when he can.

"John's really struggled too with the distance," Paula said.

"It was quite difficult.

"We're really focused on rebuilding the family now."

She was relieved to have the positive feedback from surgeons, saying she'd spent the last two years "looking over my shoulder", wondering when she would be ripped away from her family and back in hospital fighting off another infection.

 

Paula lost her leg in a freak accident last year, now she's looking at taking legal action against the new hospital over the amputation. John and Paula Gowland. Photo: Che Chapman / Sunshine Coast Daily
Paula lost her leg in a freak accident last year, now she's looking at taking legal action against the new hospital over the amputation. John and Paula Gowland. Photo: Che Chapman / Sunshine Coast Daily Che Chapman

The infection victory meant John could now take another shot at running his cleaning business with no choice but to try and start again from scratch and revamp the business to continue to support the family.

Paula said the effects on the family finances had been significant, the loss of income, medical and travel expenses taking a toll.

"We've basically had to start all over again," she said.

"It's a significant amount of money."

Paula said the battles with infection and the further amputation had a massive impact on her.

"It was getting really scary to run out of antibiotic options," she said.

"It really changed my life significantly again.

"It's so surreal sometimes (thinking about how it all happened)."



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