The problems first started for Caroline McGrane, now 56, back when she got osteoarthritis in her left knee at the age of just 37.
“One morning in 2002 I woke up and couldn’t lift my leg out of the bed. I was in horrific pain and went to the doctors and got a scan and they told me that due to arthritis I had the bones of an 80-year-old, and I was only 37,” she said.
She fought for 14 years to save her leg, battling through six knee replacements and being hospitalised multiple times. After an infection turned septic, doctors told her she could end up in serious danger if they didn’t amputate.
The Lucan native told RSVP Live that she tried to look on the positive side, hoping that she might actually have a better chance at happiness without her leg.
“I thought if I give my leg away then maybe I can have a better life then, there’ll be no more going into hospital no more of that suffering, no more infection.
“I thought it would put a stop on that part of my lifespan, I didn’t want that part anymore, I just wanted to start a new life span – a happier one.
“I hoped that I would be able to live my life again, using a prosthetic leg, doing simple things like going for a walk in the park or going grocery shopping.”
However, over the past four years the mum of two has been unable to get a prosthetic to fit her, as what’s left of her leg is too short.
As a result, she is confined to a wheelchair or mobility scooter.
“The National Rehabilitation Hospital has tried multiple types of suspension systems to get me back on two feet but it has proved impossible.
“My leg would keep falling off or turning in, so if I didn’t keep looking down I could trip over it.
“Once I was crossing the road in Maynooth Village and right in the middle of the road, my leg fell off into my jeans. I was trying to pump it back on and hold it on so I could get to the bank.
“It was horrific, I was in tears. The staff in the bank were great, I had to go into one of their offices and strip off, take my leg off and ask one of the girls to carry my leg to the car.”
Not being able to walk has taken a huge toll on Caroline’s physical and mental health.
“You would be amazed at how much you miss out on only having the use of one leg, it is a huge deal. It’s physically draining and mentally frustrating and upsetting.
“Because I’m not bearing weight on my leg, the bone is deteriorating. I can feel my phantom limb 24/7. My brain can’t let go of my leg because there hasn’t been another foot on the ground.
“My freedom has been taken away from me. Everything is an ordeal now, and I have to rely on my family to help me all the time.
“I don’t sit here moping, I just get on with it and live my life the best I can. I accept that it’s not cancer and I haven’t been given a terminal diagnosis.
“But I am very scared that I will never walk again.”
Caroline’s last hope is a procedure called osseointegration, which inserts a metal implant into the bone of a residual limb that then attaches directly to a prosthesis.
She would have to fly to Australia for the surgery, and between flights, accommodation, a new prosthetic leg, aftercare and the surgery itself, it’s going to cost her €120,000.
Because the procedure is outside of the EU, there is no financial support available to her – so she has had to set up a GoFundMe campaign.
“It’s so much money, but I will fight every day to be able to get on that plane to Australia and to then walk on to the plane back to Ireland independently and with a new lease of life,” she said.
“It is my dream that one day I’ll be able to walk again.”