‘A nurse approached me. ‘You’re going in now.’ I could see my mother’s eyes watering. Terrified, I took one final glimpse at my leg. I didn’t expect what was coming next.’

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“I’ve had problems with my left leg since I was born, but it wasn’t so bad in the early years. My leg was always substantially shorter than my right, which meant I had to wear a special prosthetic leg to keep me balanced. To me, I was normal. My leg was simply part of who I am. I never thought of it as an issue.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

As I grew and started interacting more with other children, I noticed a huge difference. It had an effect on me deep down, even if I didn’t want to admit it. I felt as if I was weaker than others. My only solution was to push myself harder in other areas like sports. I was determined to prove myself. But sometimes I’d push myself too hard and end up getting pains in my left leg.

The more I tried to prove myself, the more I’d end up in wheelchairs. I hated all of it and just wanted to walk, run, play. Do what everyone else was doing. When I was 4 years old, my parents were given some options. First was to have my left leg lengthened, which would make both of my legs the same size. The downside? I’d have to endure years of surgeries and almost a decade in hospitals. The second option was to have my leg amputated.

My parents quickly rejected the amputation option as they felt that was something for me to decide when I was older. They were quite keen on the idea of having my leg lengthened and had even prepared for it. But when I turned 5, a senior doctor advised them against the idea as my leg (especially my knee) was extremely unstable. Having it lengthened would prove risky and very problematic.

So, I carried on with life as normal. Until it wasn’t. At age 12, I fell down the stairs and my kneecap popped out. It was completely out of place. Sadly, this was my left leg, so it wasn’t as simple as a normal dislocation. After having some scans, the doctors said my leg was considerably weaker than it was when I was younger. I needed surgery to completely reconstruct my knee and to realign my thigh bone (osteotomy). At the time, I was terrified. It was going to be my first ever surgery and it was a big one.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

Sadly, it took many months for the surgery appointment to arrive. During my wait, I missed an entire year of school and had to stay at home. This was a really depressing time as I still wanted to be that normal kid who could walk or run. The only way I remained positive was the constant reminder that there were people in the world in much worse conditions. I always tried to stay grateful for the fact that I was alive and healthy.

After finally having surgery, I quickly recovered and was back to normal life. I could walk the way I used to and was back in school! The only downside to this was that I was no longer able to run due to how unstable my leg was. The doctors couldn’t do anything about it. ‘It’s something you’ll have to learn to live with,’ they told me.

I couldn’t run or play most sports, so that had a very negative effect on me mentally. I felt as if I wasn’t good enough to do physical activities. I felt weaker than my peers. The negative thoughts persisted. So, I decided to do something about it. Join the gym.

I had officially started college and really wanted to do something to feel stronger. Joining the gym was great for me mentally and I would advise anyone to do the same. The gym made me feel happy and strong again. Lifting weights and just feeling a sweat made me feel normal.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was overloading myself with physical activities. Through the middle of my college courses, I started to get excruciating pains in my knee. I ignored it for a few weeks until it got to a point where I simply could no longer stand on my leg. Over the years, I’d formed a way of coping with pain. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was informed by a senior doctor that my tissue and ligaments were all damaged.

My ACL was torn and it was all very complicated. Usually a doctor could fix this with a surgery, but my leg was different and couldn’t be repaired. I was so angry with myself and sad that I had to finish college in a wheelchair. I went from being really active to not being active at all. I felt like giving up and came close to failing college. I tried to smile through the pain.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

They then failed to fix my leg with surgery. My surgeon gave me numerous additional options that included a lifetime of surgeries in hospital. I hated the idea. But he also gave me two options that would end my pain and allow to live my life. The first option was to fuse my knee. This meant having a left leg that would never bend. That’s pretty hard when you want to climb stairs or sit inside a car. Sadly, the only other option was amputating my leg above the knee. It was a horrible option, but it was also the best option.

So, after giving it a huge amount of thought, I told my surgeon that I wanted my leg to be amputated. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and lots of anxiety came with it. Watching my mother accept that her oldest son was going to have his leg cut off was heart-breaking for me.

The appointment for my amputation came very quickly, which was a bit of a shock. I wasn’t mentally prepared to lose my leg, but I put on a brave face for those around me. I would stay awake at night thinking about it and it was terrifying me. I tried to reach out to people online who had been through similar amputations and there were very few that I could find. The ones I did contact never responded, so I felt like I was truly on my own. I had nobody with an amputation to tell me that life would be okay.

The week before my amputation was filled with support from my family and friends. My family threw a small party for me and it helped to distract me from the daunting fact that I was losing my leg very soon. Part of me was happy because it was my own decision and deep down I knew this was going to help me, but the fear was still taking over. I kept most of my feelings to myself. Deep down it felt heart-breaking to lose a limb and anyone whose experienced it knows that.

The day of the amputation arrived and I went into a bathroom to quickly film a short video as I had been filming video logs over the last few months to express my feelings. When I left the bathroom a nurse approached me and told me, ‘You’re going in for your amputation now.’ Everything just felt weird.

The nurse walked me down to theatre where I got changed. My mother was with me and I remember my mom telling me not to be scared. I could see her eyes watering up, so I kept on smiling and telling her it was okay. Then they took me away. I took one final glimpse at my leg before they put me to sleep.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

After waking up from the amputation, a nice nurse stayed by my side. He told me that everything went great and according to plan with no complications. That was super reassuring and I knew a new chapter in life had officially begun. I wasn’t in much pain due to nerve blockers. I didn’t expect what was coming next. Phantom pain!

The night after my amputation was one of the worst nights of my life. Suddenly, I could feel my toes and my entire leg even though it was gone! The feeling was super painful and I was in agony. The pain went on for days. Day by day, I got more and more angry at the staff. I had my leg amputated but I could still feel pain in that leg. In fact, the pain was worse than before. The doctors never explained that this was going to happen, so I was very angry and depressed.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

I would cry all night but there was this lovely nurse that would always come and stay by my side. She would tell me things would get better. After 6 weeks of trying multiple drugs and techniques, my pains finally went away and I was able to go home.

Courtesy of Adam Islam

Currently, I’m back at home living with my parents and siblings. My pain is so much better and I suddenly feel motivated again. I actually have to thank the ‘Amputee Foundation’ for giving me back my hope and motivation as they allowed me to meet an amputee who is living an amazing life. This has given me hope and I’m currently learning to walk again, now with a prosthetic.

My journey has taken almost 19 years and I’m finally excited and ready for the future. With the support of family and friends, I will take on the world. I hope my story can help anyone else in a similar situation. I want to help people making the decision to amputate their limb because it’s scary. I didn’t have an amputee to help me when I made my decision and that was really hard. I don’t have medical experience, but I do have the life experience. And I will use it in the best way I can.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adam Islam of Birmingham. You can follow his journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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