Mum-to-be left faces amputation after treatment goes wrong

Sarah Bristow
-Credit: (Image: Sarah Bristow© SWNS)


A pregnant woman was left facing the risk of losing her leg after a reaction to an injection. Sarah Bristow was in her third month of pregnancy when she was prescribed blood thinners after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

However, within days she noticed her left leg was turning black. This led to an emergency trip to the hospital where it was discovered she had an infection caused by the medication.

The 31-year-old underwent numerous operations and treatments and has been left with lasting health issues. Now, the full-time mum is urging others to be vigilant for the reaction to prevent them from experiencing what she went through.

Sarah explained how she was prescribed Fragmin injections - a type of blood thinner - after being diagnosed with DVT which she had to inject into her legs. But when she noticed her skin darkening and found it increasingly difficult to walk, she contacted her doctor.

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She claimed that despite calling them three times, they did not request to see photographs but continued to prescribe her with increasingly potent doses of co-codamol. Eventually, Sarah realised she needed urgent medical help and called an ambulance.

She said: "It was during the first lockdown. I didn't want to pester medical personnel too much, but it looked awful and I didn't know what to do. Because of the restrictions, I had to go to hospital and stay there completely alone which was really hard."

In April 2020, a Sarah discovered she had suffered a rare allergic reaction to the blood thinner injections, also known as dalteparin. The skin on her left leg had turned necrotic - where the tissue dies - and it needed to be surgically removed, along with the infection underneath.

The surgeon warned Sarah the severity of the infection would not be known until the first incision was made. And they said depending on how bad it was she might have to have to lose her limb.

Sarah was left facing surgery under general anaesthetic not knowing of she would wake up with both legs. Luckily, the surgeons successfully removed the infection and were able to save her leg which Sarah has said she is "eternally grateful" for.

Following her first operation surgery, Sarah had a skin graft which was done under spinal anaesthesia - where local anaesthetic is placed directly into the lower back.

She said: "I've never had spinal before and I was really wary and asked if I could have general anaesthetic instead, but they wouldn't budge. It wasn't actually as bad as I thought - until they wheeled me into the theatre.

"They placed iodine on the leg and it started to burn - I could feel absolutely everything and I was in absolute tears. The spinal hadn't worked."

The medical team then decided to use general anaesthetic. They transferred skin from Sarah's right leg to her left, before inserting 57 staples into her left leg.

She was then transported back to the original hospital where she had an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter inserted into the jugular vein in her neck, which remained for the next two years. The filter is designed to prevent blood clots travelling to the lungs and stretches from the neck down to the stomach.

She explained: "After the two years I had to have it removed under local anaesthetic. But during the two years it had embedded itself into my neck, because when I first had it fitted I was pregnant.

"They tried to pull it out but it wouldn't budge and I could just feel it in my stomach, it was the weirdest feeling. As they tried to remove it I was in excruciating pain - it was more painful than childbirth."

After a CT scan revealed just how deep the filter had become embedded in Sarah's neck, it was successfully removed.

Sarah said the worst part of the whole ordeal was "being completely on my own" during the nine days she spent in hospital. She added having to experience everything by herself was "absolutely terrifying".

Her husband Matthew Bristow, 31, helped Sarah when she returned from the hospital and could not walk for three weeks, taking over all the childcare as well as helping his wife. She said: "He was amazing."

Now, Sarah is dealing with severe nerve damage in her left leg and has been left with a scar measuring 11cm by 11cm and 2cm deep. She's determined to ensure that no one else endures the ordeal she went through.

She explained: "I tried to write a report to the Yellow Card scheme to raise awareness about my experience, but as far as I know, I'm pretty sure the reaction I had is not even on the rarest side effects list for the injection. I've got so many mum friends and pregnant friends and I know the injections are used by lots of pregnant women, and people that aren't pregnant as well, and I would just hate for what happened to me to happen to anyone else."

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