Moving Beyond Limitations

October 12, 2016

It was a diagnosis of pneumonia that Lou Richardson received when she visited her doctor one day in August 1999.

But within a few days she had undergone multiple amputations and was fighting to stay alive after contracting pneumococcal septicaemia, a form of blood poisoning that was caused when the pneumococcal bacteria entered her bloodstream.

She was in a coma for two weeks and spent six months in hospital, undergoing skin grafts to heal the stumps of her amputated limbs – both her legs were amputated below the knee, and her left arm had to be amputated below the elbow.

Ms Richardson has shared her story with the Bendigo Advertiser for Amputee Awareness Week, which officially ends on Monday.

Throughout the ordeal Ms Richardson was focused on getting back to the farm and back to being a mum to her children Ashley and Katie, who were aged just five and two and a half when their mother fell ill.

Adjusting back to normal life after her illness was the hardest part of her recovery, she said, as she learnt how to do everyday tasks with one arm and no legs.

But she did manage to return to work on the farm and caring for her kids, with the support of her late husband Darren.

Nowadays, while some things are more time-consuming and certain tasks can get frustrating, Ms Richardson says she simply gets on with life.

She has found ways to do most things and has regained her independence.

“They told me when I got sick, ‘You’ll never walk and you’ll never drive’, and I do both,” Ms Richardson said.

Since moving to Bendigo last year, she has also been instrumental in starting up a social group for fellow amputees, as she found the experience could be isolating after some of her friendships dropped off in the wake of her illness.

There is something Ms Richardson told her partner John Lamb not long after meeting him several years ago, and it has stuck with him ever since.

Mr Lamb said she told him “It just is”, a simple phrase that he believed summed up her attitude to life.

Ms Richardson did not wallow, he said, nor seek to place blame for her circumstances with anything.

“You’re only as limited as you allow yourself to be,” Ms Richardson added.