Still a hands-on mother!

Half od me has gone, but not the important part...

Published by: Laura Hinton and Jacki Leroux
Published on: 16 February 2012

Slits of bright light blinded me as I slowly opened my eyes. It was all so fuzzy. Suddenly, my hubby Marc, 40, came into focus beside me.
‘Thank God, you've been in a coma for five weeks,' he whispered. What! I couldn't move my head to respond. And my throat, it felt so raw - like it had been packed out with cotton wool.
‘They told me you only had a few hours left to live,' he added, softly. ‘I thought we'd lost you.'
Lost me?! I was so confused. I had vague recollections of walking our daughter Cienna, five, to the school bus like I did every day. I'd not felt great, though, had I? When I'd got home, I'd been sick with a pain in my right thigh.
The last thing I could remember was putting Liam, our three-month-old son, in his cot. So how did I end up in hospital?!
‘Doctors had to put you in a coma because they couldn't get a blood pressure reading,' Marc gently explained. ‘They diagnosed you with necrotizing fasciitis - the flesh-eating disease.'
I felt sick, confused. Slowly, though, Marc continued. ‘You needed surgery to remove the infected flesh in your leg. But you didn't get better, they had to take you back in...' He paused, couldn't look me in the eye.
That's when I realised I felt different. Looking down, horror ripped through me. Where my arms and legs should have been, there were just layers of bandages.
‘I'm sorry,' Marc sobbed. ‘The toxins were ravaging your body. You would've died otherwise.'
I just shook my head as he talked... ‘Your arms have been amputated from the elbow. And your legs from the knees down.'
Sickness engulfed me. I'd never be able to walk Cienna to school again, to hold Liam in my arms.
‘Why?!' I hissed eventually. ‘Couldn't they save something?!'
Pain flashed in Marc's eyes, and it was then I realised. He'd been forced to make the painful decision. He'd saved my life. ‘I'm sorry. You had no choice,' I cried.
‘We'll get through this,' he whispered. But in truth, I felt numb. My whole life had changed in the blink of an eye.
We agreed not to let the children visit until I'd had time to digest what had happened. That wouldn't happen overnight.
‘It's the simple things,' I sobbed to Marc. ‘I can't even scratch my nose any more!' That suddenly seemed like the greatest gift.
Two weeks later, Marc brought the children in. It was only then my frustration began to calm.
‘Mummy, I've missed you!' Cienna screeched, launching herself at me.
‘I've missed you, too,' I sobbed. She didn't even blink at the fact half of me had vanished. All that mattered was her mum was there - and limbs, or no limbs, nothing would change that. She might just have a point.
Marc rested Liam on my lap. ‘Darling boy,' I whispered. I ached to scoop him up... but I had to focus on the positives, get better for my family.
‘We'll get you some prosthetic limbs,' Marc told me. ‘Then we'll modify the house.'
‘You're my rock,' I told him.
It was so tough, though. I had to stay in hospital to build up my strength, and it gave me too much time alone with my thoughts.
One day, Liam started crying and I went to comfort him, but he pulled away. It played on my mind for days. ‘He doesn't know me,' I wept.
When Cienna had been born, she'd only ever wanted me. I'd instinctively known everything about her. It would never be like that with Liam.
When I was finally allowed home four months later, I was so nervous. Things felt harder than ever. At night, Marc had to carry me to bed, and I'd wake in the morning to hear my children laughing as he got them dressed.
It was torture. I was the one supposed to be taking Cienna to school and playing hide and seek. Liam still didn't seem to know me either. But that wasn't surprising. If he cried in the night, Marc leapt up. ‘I'll see to him,' he'd whisper.
As if I have a choice, I thought.
It was only when Marc modified our home that I became distracted from my inner torment. Soon, we had Velcro straps fitted on drawers and doors to help me get about. I wore a Velcro cuff on my stumps, which helped me to open things.
Gradually, I learnt to develop a sense of humour about it, too. One day, Marc was pushing me around town in my wheelchair when I spotted a pretty dress. ‘Nice - but it'll cost me two arms and two legs,' I told him. We were soon giggling!
Two months after that, I started therapy with my new prosthetic limbs. Standing for the first time, it felt like walking on tiptoes.
And wobbling next to Liam, by now 16 months, I realised we were on the same journey. ‘He's going to walk before me!' I laughed to Marc.
‘You'll catch him up soon,' he smiled. Just then, Cienna raced in.
‘How are Ren and Stumpy today?' she giggled. It was the silly name we'd given my arm stumps!
‘They're ready to brush your hair,' I laughed back. She then sat still while I used the special long brush we'd bought that I could grip on to.
But I felt totally exhausted. If I dropped a book, it'd take five minutes just to work out how I was going to pick it up. I couldn't butter my toast or unscrew my mascara. Just getting forks out to lay the table for dinner took me 20 minutes.
‘It takes 85 per cent more energy to walk with prosthetic legs,' my nurse told me.
‘Maybe that's why I'm ready for bed at 8pm,' I giggled.
Now I can brush my teeth, wash my face, and dress myself. I've celebrated milestones such as not spilling any food on my lap when eating like they're world records. ‘Three cheers for Mummy!' Cienna laughs.
I've been able to bake cakes with my daughter again and paint her nails. I've even swum again! Just recently, Liam snuggled into me like he knew I was his mummy. That was just as incredible as when I managed to take Cienna to the bus stop before school. ‘See you later, sweetie,' I called out, just like old times.
‘Love you!' she shouted back. I can't express the joy I felt.
Yes, there are still so many things I miss - the feeling of my toes against crisp, cool, clean sheets, getting things off the top and bottom shelves at the supermarket.
But I'm blessed with so much more. My life is incredibly different to the one I used to have, but it is one that I still want to live.
Most importantly I'm starting to feel like the mum I was before I lost my limbs. With or without them, that has always been my purpose.

• To read Cyndi's blog about her journey, visit:

Cyndi DesJardins, 43, Toronto, Ontario