Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News Health

I was given just minutes to decide: lose your leg or die. I chose life... and now I can watch my children grow up

By Lisa Smyth

Published 05/05/2016

David Radcliffe, principal of Harpur’s Hill Primary School in Coleraine
David Radcliffe, principal of Harpur’s Hill Primary School in Coleraine

A father-of-four has told how he was given a matter of minutes to make the decision to have his leg amputated to save his life.

David Radcliffe was fighting cancer for the second time when doctors discovered the tumour had grown around the bone and main arteries in his leg.

The 50-year-old was due to undergo a hip replacement when doctors came to him and his wife Alison and told him the only way they could save him was by removing his leg.

"We came to the decision within 10 seconds," said David.

"When you're choosing between quality of life or a long life, you go for the longer life.

"My wife and I had a wee moment together and then it was time to move on."

David, principal of Harpur's Hill Primary School in Coleraine, was first diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 1996.

He underwent 14 sessions of chemotherapy before surgeons removed the tumour from his leg.

"The doctors kept an eye on me for the next five years but I'd moved on, I thought everything was fantastic," he explained.

"It was a very rare cancer and I thought because they had cut it out, and it was nowhere else, that it wouldn't come back.

"I was in the shower and I felt a lump, and then my heart just sank.

"I went to the doctor and he referred me because of my history, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer again."

David embarked on more chemotherapy in a bid to shrink the tumour.

However, when this failed he was referred for specialist treatment at a hospital in Middlesex in England.

It was at the Royal Stanmore Hospital that surgeons amputated his left leg from the hip socket on February 4 last year.

Following initial recovery he was transferred to Musgrave Park Hopital in south Belfast to begin rehabilitation.

"When you come round after the surgery, it is a really strange sensation because your body still thinks you have a leg," said David.

"I still have phantom pain in my leg.

"But the hardest part is learning to put weight on it.

"The staff at Musgrave have been fantastic in helping me.

"Before you can leave hospital you have to pass certain tests on crutches, such as going up and down the stairs.

"They ask you what your goals are and I told them that by the end of June I wanted to go back to school to the prize day and I wanted to stand up, take two steps and speak to all the children, and sit back down again."

Geraldine Laughlin, manager of the disablement service at Musgrave Park Hospital, said: "Everyone is different and everyone has different expectations, so we work with them to try and help them achieve their goals."

The service has more than 2,000 people on its books at any one time, with between 150 and 160 new patients referred every year.

David added: "The way I see it, it is for me to be alive and see my children grow up, watch them play.

"Basically, I am able to do that because I had my leg removed.

"I've had 50 great years and hopefully I will have another 40 or 50 great years."

To find out more about the regional limb-fitting service, log on to RegionalLimbFittingService.htm

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph