My name is Clair Malone and I live in Berwick Street Soho London. I was born in 1974. My Mother was an alcoholic and one night she was drunk driving when she was pregnant with me and she had a car accident. She was not injured, but she hit her stomach on the steering wheel. I had a stroke at birth that affected my whole right side. My whole life I have had problems with my leg and my right hand is much weaker than my left one. Everyone in my family is right handed but because of my stroke I was forced to use my left hand as my dominant hand.
When I was 18 months old I still wasn’t sitting up alone or crawling or walking so my Mother brought me to a specialist in Dublin and they diagnosed the stroke and said the car accident was the reason. When I eventually did start walking my heel was raised up off the ground and I couldn’t put my foot flat on the floor. When I was six I was brought into hospital and they cut the achilles tendon in the back of my leg. The heel dropped, but it left one leg shorter than the other. It also meant that I had no control over my foot. I couldn’t move it up and down, and I have never been able to do it since. This means that my whole life I have tripped over and fallen a lot. I literally just fall over my own foot.
When I was eleven I was brought into hospital again. This time I was to spend many months there. They cut my achilles tendons again and they placed a wagner device like in the picture below into my leg between my ankle and my knee attached to my tibia bone and they broke both my tibia and fibula bones. There was a screw on the wagner device and it was turned twice a day. Each time the screw was turned it would pull the bones further apart. When the bones were pulled one and a half inches apart I had more surgery to remove the wagner device. I needed to have a hip bone graft to fill in the gaps in my bones the wagner device created. It was decided that as the stroke affected my whole right hand side that they would keep all the damage to my right hand side and so took the bone from my right hip too.
Surgeons used my hip bone to fill in the gaps, then removed the wagner device and put a long plate attached to my bones inside my body to allow all the bone fractures to heal properly. They also put 2 screws in my ankle to try to stabilise my foot but the ankle screws didn’t work. Then I was ready to go home.
During my time in hospital, the hospital staff became concerned about the relationship between my Mother and I. She was interviewed by social services and I was referred to hospital psychiatrists. Everything came out about both physical and emotional abuse that she had been subjecting me to for years and rather than being discharged home with my Mother I was sent straight into a residential care home in Dublin and lived there between the ages of 11 and 16.
After all the surgery and physiotherapy the Drs said that they had taken my leg as far as they could and that there was nothing else that could be done about my leg. Specialists in the UK actually measured my legs a few years ago and my leg is still 2 inches shorter than the other one and after all these years of walking with a limp my lower few vertebrae have collapsed down on top of each other.
When I was thirteen, I was brought back into hospital again for more surgery to remove the plate in my leg. It was decided that the screws in my ankle were supporting it even if they were not allowing me to have control over my foot so the plate was removed and the screws were left in my ankle. Those screws are still in my ankle today.
6 months after having the plate removed I tripped over and broke my leg. Luckily there have been no actual fractures since then.
I still have lots of health problems due to the stroke and my leg and arm weakness, but thanks to the hospital staff in Ireland when I was a child it’s not as bad as it was when I was a child.
This is a picture of the wagner device in someone’s thigh. Mine was between the knee and ankle. I ended up having the wagner device in for 8 months and was in hospital all that time. I caught a bone infection, so the wagner was left in for two extra months while the bone infection cleared up. I still have a big dent in my lower leg from that infection. I had a total of 6 operations in that 8 months. Some under local – but most under general anaesthetic.