'Shocked' woman undergoes partial amputation after broken foot undiagnosed
GRAPHIC WARNING: Some of the images in this story may be distressing for some viewers
A Newfoundland mother says part of her leg had to be amputated after she developed an infection from an undiagnosed broken foot.
Samantha Rideout said she slipped and fell down the stairs of her home in St. John’s, N.L. last September. She knew she had injured herself because she felt pain in her foot, which was rare for her because she was born with spina bifida -- a spinal birth defect that caused her to feel little sensation in her feet.
The single mother of three visited the Health Sciences Centre hospital in St. John’s where she said the doctors there focused on examining her knee instead of her foot.
“When I went to the hospital they ignored my complaints about my foot,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
After hobbling home, Rideout said her foot was swollen and covered in bruises so she immediately returned to the hospital. Her foot was X-rayed, but she said doctors told her they didn’t find anything, but would send it to a specialist and call her if anything changed.
Two months went by without a call from the hospital and Rideout said she developed calluses on her foot that she suspected were infected. When she returned to the hospital, she was given IV antibiotics.
Eventually in November, Rideout said she returned to the emergency department because she felt very ill and she had a high fever. She said she was told she had the flu.
Shortly after, the 30-year-old woman said she was able to see an orthopedic surgeon who explained to her that her foot was badly infected. In January, Rideout said she underwent surgery for the infection in her foot, but it was unsuccessful.
A week later, Rideout said the surgeon gave her a choice between two life-altering courses of action.
“They gave me the option of taking half my foot or a below-the-knee amputation,” she said.
If Rideout selected the option to remove half of her foot, the infection could return. If she selected the second more drastic amputation, she could prevent the infection’s spread entirely.
“I was shocked,” she recalled. “It was a lot to take in, but I knew that I had to do the [leg] amputation for my kids so I wouldn’t get sick again.”
Adjusting to life as an amputee
In March, Rideout’s leg was amputated below the knee.
“It has been a lot, hard. It’s been bad,” she said of the months since her surgery. “The kids have to help me with a lot of things that they shouldn’t need to do, like laundry and cooking and cleaning. They’re only five, four, and six, so they shouldn’t need to be doing those things with me.”
Rideout said her young children are still coming to terms with the changes.
“They don’t understand that I can’t take them to the park or go for a walk or to the beach. They don’t understand that I just can’t get up and go anymore. I have to plan out my whole time with them,” she said.
Rideout said she thinks the medical staff at Health Sciences Centre could have “done better” and they allowed her to slip through the cracks by not diagnosing her broken foot and treating her infection earlier.
“Now I have to suffer and try to deal with what happened the best I can,” she said.
A spokesperson for Eastern Health, which operates the hospital, said the health authority is unable to publicly discuss the case due to privacy concerns.
“Providing safe, quality care is Eastern Health’s first priority. When a person presents at any Eastern Health facility, staff are trained to assess the patient's health issue and to provide expert advice on the best options for meeting those needs,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The health authority reassured the public they don’t turn away patients requiring care from any of their emergency departments.
“When necessary, patients with complicated health concerns – including pre-existing health conditions – receive comprehensive care from a group of practitioners,” the statement read. “Eastern Health takes every complaint seriously and will make every effort to resolve an individual’s concerns.”
Rideout said she’s sharing her story now in the hopes that others won’t have to go through what she experienced.
“I want people to know what happened and hopefully change our healthcare system here in Newfoundland,” she said.
Rideout said she’s considering taking legal action against Eastern Health and she is currently looking for lawyers to represent her.