Quota International of Taree Inc. will host a special International Women’s Day event on March 8. Guest speaker at the event is Fay Keegan – a courageous woman with a moving story to share …
Hi Fay. Tell us about your background …
I moved to the Manning in March 1986 with my husband, David, and eight month old son. Our daughter was born in Taree in 1987, and we moved to a farm at Pampoolah in 1995.
I’ve worked as a social worker in Taree since we moved here, with Community Health, NGOs, and in private practices.
In 1968, you experienced a terrible accident. Please share what happened.
I was 11 years old and in sixth class at Sutherland Primary School. I was the Sports Captain – I spent a lot of time playing sport.
One Saturday morning, I’d been to Caringbah to go shopping. The accident happened when I was coming back to Sutherland, and I swapped from a city train to a rail motor.
When the train started to move, I was called to the door. As I went to reach for the handle, the train jolted, and I fell out. My foot got caught in the wheel.
What were doctors’ prognoses at the time?
The doctors weren’t sure if they’d be able to save my foot …
When I came out of the anaesthetic, I thought my leg had been amputated – there was a lot of pain in my thigh – but it turned out this was from the skin grafts. I was told I might lose my foot over the next few weeks because of Gangrene and I’d probably never walk again.
I had six months of very intense physical therapy; it was like learning to walk on a new foot. I didn’t have a heel anymore – the foot had been de-gloved (skin removed) and completely mangled and crushed across the middle.
The pain was like another person in my life; it had such a presence.
I needed crutches to get through a full day at school, and there were complications with constant ulcers.
I was hit with frequent infections – the first one was during my first year of high school after the swimming carnival; it was diagnosed as Cellulitis. I was hospitalised for a month and referred to an orthopaedic surgeon.
When I was 15, after repeated infections, the surgeon told me I should have my foot amputated.
I refused, because I still had hope for my foot…
I was also told I wouldn’t have the capability to be a mother – and I ignored that as well!
At 16, my GP put me on an invalid pension and told me I’d never work. I was pretty feisty, though – I thought my GP didn’t know me very well!
I ended up doing most of high school by distance education, because of the constant infections.
Why did you finally decide to have an amputation in 2011?
I’d made a vow to my foot when I was 11 that if it didn’t get Gangrene, I’d look after it.
But it came to the point in 2011 where I developed Osteomyelitis (a bone infection that can spread).
I’d started to take Prophylactic antibiotics when the children were young, but in 2010 other infections kept breaking through, so I needed to keep increasing the dose.
These things led me to consider finally letting the foot go.
I met with a rehab specialist, vascular surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon and a prosthetist … and it was the prosthetist who told me I’d be able to hike further after the amputation.
Well, I wasn’t hiking at all at that point! I was going to work and coming home, and David was doing all the shopping and most things around the house.
I’d grown up hiking in the National Parks in the Sutherland Shire. This sounded so positive!
How did the decision to amputate affect your life?
It was life changing. I was happy and motivated!
I started to hike. I worked with a physiotherapist, and managed to get up to hiking 20 km in one day! I mostly do around 6 – 8 km a day now.
I did a lot of thinking while hiking. I hadn’t intended to write a memoir, but at the end of 2014, I started to write.
My memoir is a manuscript currently; there’s info on my website. There are a couple of publishers interested – but it’s a work in progress.
You’re a supporter of “Limbs 4 Life”. What can you tell us about this organisation?
I became involved with Limbs 4 Life when I was researching amputation. One of the main directions for the organisation is to provide educational material that helps people understand amputations and prosthetics.
They also provide wonderful peer support; this was one of the single most helpful things I ever experienced.
Last year I became their National Peer Support Manager, to help expand the programme around Australia.
There are different ways for people to become an amputee – through trauma, diabetes, vascular disease, cancer … There are 70 amputations in Australia each week; 85 percent of amputations in Australia are due to Diabetes at present. It’s vital these people have access to support.
You’ll be a guest presenter on March 8. What will you be talking about on the day?
I’d like to pick up the theme for International Women’s Day this year: “Be bold for change”.
I’d like to focus on two key stages in my life: when the accident happened; then having the amputation.
I was given a lot of negative predictions about my future, but I was able to tap into my self-belief that nothing would rob me of my life. There were so many roadblocks, I was socially isolated when I couldn’t attend school, but I had to learn how to be happy and find alternative pathways.
With the amputation, it came to a point where I either accepted how things were, or take a bold step. Choosing the amputation wasn’t a decision that was forced on me, like the accident was. It was a leap of faith.
It’s about how boldness can take a lot of different forms.
See Fay at Quota International of Taree Inc.’s event on March 8th, St. John’s Anglican Church Hall, Taree, from 6pm.
$25/head; light three course meal and a complimentary drink. Contact for info/special diet 6551 0910.
Ticket sales: Margaret’s Underfashions 6551 3203 or Ashleigh Road Boutique 6553 0142.
Quota will make a donation to Limbs 4 Life.