A PE teacher lost her leg in a “freak accident” as she went outside to investigate a loud bang during Storm Eunice.
The terrifying ordeal came as the UK was battered by 70mph winds back in February.
What began as a normal day for 31-year-old Lauren Cooper from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, soon turned into a real-life nightmare.
Her life drastically changed after a garden wall that was attached to the side of her house collapsed and crushed her foot, HertsLive reports.
She was told by doctors that she would have to have her leg amputated, labelling the day she was dealt the blow as the ” worst day in the hospital “.
Her life now revolves mainly around physiotherapy, but despite learning to walk in her new prosthetic leg, the young PE teacher sets herself goals to support others and make the best of an awful situation.
During Storm Eunice, residents were advised to stay at home due to weather warnings, so Lauren did.
However, one loud bang outside of her house would change her life forever.
“I was staying at home and I can’t even explain it. I heard a bang. It almost sounded like a car crash, but it was louder,” she said.
“I looked out the window to check on my car, but nothing was wrong. I didn’t even go outside at that point, I literally sat back down and watched TV.
“Then I thought, ‘What if someone’s hurt?’. So I stepped outside and I saw that most of the wall was down. I [thought] who do I even call?
“A couple of my neighbours came outside and we discussed the situation. One of my neighbours went back in to get some shoes on.”
Lauren was not aware that just a few seconds later her life would change beyond recognition.
More of the garden wall came crashing down onto her and she says that had she been stood any closer to it, it could have ended far worse because the wall was much taller than her.
Lauren’s neighbour came back outside to a horror scene.
“At that point, I was on the floor because the wind had blown again,” Lauren added.
“It had blown the bit of the wall that was still upright. It landed on my feet. And this is going to sound really weird but I literally didn’t feel anything.
“I was just looking at my leg going, ‘Oh my legs are under the wall and I can’t move my leg’. It must have literally only been a second, but for me, it felt like minutes.
“My neighbour is tiny, so I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she managed to push the wall back off of me.”
Ambulances were stretched thin during the storm so, rather than waiting, one of Lauren’s neighbours drove her to the hospital.
She sat at Lister Hospital A&E for a few hours before she was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where she had three surgeries within a few weeks.
Lauren admits her brain tried to “play things down” and ignored the fact that it was a severe injury.
She said: “I don’t think my reaction on that day was fairly good. I was aware of the severity of the injury but I think my brain has a tendency to play things down.”
Doctors tried to save her foot but the circulation to some of her toes had been completely cut off.
The first diagnosis she heard was that they will need to amputate her toes. However, the situation escalated very quickly.
“There was a consultant who came in one day,” she went on, “and no one had mentioned that before, and he just said, ‘Amputation below your knee is your best option’. That was possibly the worst day in the hospital.
“After a while, I felt calm about it. It was really odd. There’s a phrase that I sort of say to people and I try and live by it.
“I think that if you are in a situation that you can control like if something is making you unhappy, you should do something about it.
“So if you don’t like your job, you can change that but you can’t change some situations.
“So I have no control over this situation. I can’t change the fact that I’ve lost my leg, but I can control how I respond to it.”
Six months on and Lauren is getting used to her new life.
There are still days of doubt and frustration as the incident impacted her mental health and the way she looks at her body.
In her recovery, Lauren is supported by family, but mainly by her physio Matt, who is one of the L7 physiotherapy team.
The beginning of physio was tough and Lauren “burst into tears” during their first meeting, but now she can rely on him and seek advice about diet and mental health support.
Lauren said: “I get frustrated every day, I can’t just get out of bed and walk to the toilet.
“You are more tired as an amputee. But then I think I can’t change what’s happened.
“I can’t go back to February and not go outside. What if I didn’t go and my neighbour would have walked past that wall and it had got her?
“So now I just go to physio and Matt is a great person. He doesn’t just think about the practical elements of getting me walking again, he’s thinking about the trauma on me as well.
“Matt pushes me for mental health support.”
At first, she was unaware of what was waiting after the surgery. She needs to learn the basics all over again.
Her physio Matt introduces many pieces of training related to netball – the sport Lauren loves.
“At first, I randomly asked the weirdest of questions to the [doctors],” she explained.
“When they were discussing my toes being amputated, the first thing that came into my head was how would I wear sandals?
“And then I was suddenly going, ‘Wait, hang on, how do I do my job and how do I play netball?’.
“So now during my physio sessions, Matt has incorporated a lot of netball into physio because he knows how important netball is.
“We’ve been trying to do things like just stepping into a pass, but I just have forgotten how to do it.
“And it’s so ridiculous because I’ve been playing netball since I was much younger and I teach PE, I teach people how to do exactly what he’s asking me to do, but I can’t physically do it.”
Lauren organised a netball tournament in the middle of her recovery where even people from the physio team got involved.
The young woman admits netball has been part of her life since a young age. The community is very supportive so she wanted to give something in return.
She said: “We started doing this tournament last year and we raised over £3,000 for a charity. I thought we can’t not run it.
“Matt knew how important netball was to me and he wanted to support the tournament how ever he could. So he got a team to come down and they played like a little social match during the lunch break of the tournament.”
Lauren’s goals don’t end with the tournament. Just three months after receiving her prosthetic leg, she aims to participate in the Rainbow Run in October.
Her goal is to walk 5k and fundraise for East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals ‘ Charity.
She admits that when she spotted the Rainbow Run’s advert on Facebook she thought about it as a joke, her friends even proposed ‘giving her a piggy bank’ or getting her a wheelchair for the run.
Lauren said: “This is just my personality, when something happens, I’ll be like, ‘What can I do?’. I set it as like a little goal.
“So I saw it advertised and I shared it on my Facebook as a bit of a joke but then I thought I might do this. Who’s going to do it with me?
“Then suddenly loads of my friends from work, loads of teachers said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I’ll do it’.
“Now, we’ve got this team together and then there’s a couple of people from the netball community who said we’ll do it.
“I reckon I can walk 5k by October and it may be too much of a challenge.
“I then spoke to the hospital and said I wanted the get funds which will go towards the physio team because I genuinely think what they do is just amazing and it’s more than just the actual physio.
“My family sees the difference in physio sessions, so now I want them to help other people how they are helping me.”