Sarah Read was a physiotherapist specialising in neurorehabilitation and in particular stroke rehab. She worked locally (Surrey), both in the NHS and the private sector, before she was diagnosed with Sarcoma, a rare and often aggressive type of cancer in 2015. She sadly passed away in June this year aged 31.
Sarah’s tumour was in her pelvis, and she had extensive pelvic surgery in March 2016. In order to remove the tumour her surgeons had to sacrifice nerve roots at L4, L5 and S1, which resulted in her suffering from loss of sensation and foot drop in her left leg. Sarah had a troublesome time accessing the splints she needed for her rehab through the NHS – this was despite knowing a lot about both her neurological deficits and the equipment available to her. Luckily, a friend and former colleague of Sarah’s was able to help her access a particular type of dynamic splint. This greatly improved Sarah’s quality of life and last year she completed the Race for Life 5K.
Sarah loved her job and was passionate about helping her patients, and with this in mind one of Sarah’s friends has set up an assessment day to help give others suffering from foot drop the same opportunity Sarah had in accessing equipment. More information is available here https://www.facebook.com/events/241361929911595/
Finally, below is a video link about Sarah’s Story:
Thank you James for sharing Sarah’s Story.
I didn’t know what foot drop was until I delivered my daughter. I gave birth on Friday July 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm. I had been in labor for 26.5 hours and pushed for almost 3 hours before she was finally delivered via vacuum suction. That evening my feet were still numb, but I had had my epidural for so long everyone thought it just hadn’t worn off yet. By the next morning an MRI was ordered and by Sunday a neurologist had to become involved. I had numerous MRIs, a spinal tap, an EMG, rounds of steroids through an IV, and a few days of PT. Ultimately after one week in the hospital I was sent home with a walker, plans for in home PT, and no diagnosis.
I was not prepared to be taking care of a newborn and be paralysed from the knees down in both legs. My husband had to go back to work, so my mom moved in with us (and stayed for about a year). I was also not prepared for my injury to take such a long time to diagnose. I seemed to be a medical mystery and none of the neurologists I had seen knew what had happened to me. I was extremely depressed during this time, but had in home PT three days a week to help me to be strong enough to function in my own home and eventually I began to do outpatient PT (I was in PT for over a year total).
During this time my mom and I researched and came across an article about a new mother who had suffered foot drop after delivering her baby. We knew that had to be what my injury was and eventually it was confirmed by a neurologist that I had suffered severe bilateral peroneal and tibial nerve damage that resulted in severe bilateral drop foot. My legs had zero nerve responses. I am so blessed that my injury was peripheral (not in the central nervous system) and I had not suffered any permanent damage. It has been a long 2 year journey, but I have overcome so much!
I am happy to say that I have had many milestones along the way! I was walker free at 10 months postpartum, foot drop free at 12 months postpartum (still had a lot of ankle weakness though), driving again at 15 months postpartum, AFO free at 20 months postpartum, and 95% healed at 2 years postpartum!!
I have learned to never take anything for granted anymore. I am enjoying life again! I have been able to maintain my strength by keeping up a consistent exercise regimen which includes stationary biking, body weight exercises, and stretching.
My hope is to bring awareness to these types of maternal nerve injuries. Although rare, these injuries impacts 40,000 women annually in the U.S. alone. Doctors are not properly educated to be able to recognize these injuries when they have happened. There is a Facebook group called Moms with Femoral/Peroneal/Sciatic nerve damage from Labor/Delivery that connects women from all over the world who have suffered a maternal nerve injury and also provides resources that have been created by a few of the members of this group. I was lucky enough to find this group when I was 6 months postpartum and I have been working to bring about advocacy to these rare, but devastating injuries.
I have definitely learned how strong I can be through my journey. My hope is that anyone who has suffered or is currently suffering from foot drop to find happiness and to be able to celebrate life!!
Thanks to Jodi for her story. If you would like to share your story to help others, please get in touch via our contact page.
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