Disease shock after bunion op
X-rays after surgery on Kathleen Metcalfe picked up that she had reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a malfunction of the nervous system.
The mum-of-one now has to use a wheelchair for long distances and is unable to work after the diagnosis in April last year but is hoping to put the condition "on the map" and speak to other sufferers.
Kathleen, who was told she was one of only a handful of people in the North East to have RSD, said: "I've now found out what I used to take for granted.
"I used to just put my coat on and go out the door, but I can't do that anymore. I can't walk that much and I need the help of a wheelchair."
Kathleen, who used to be a cleaner at Sunderland Magistrates' Court, found that being on her feet all day aggravated a bunion on her left foot.
The pain became so intense that she decided to go ahead with a bunion operation at Sunderland Royal Hospital in February 2007.
But just weeks later she started suffering from constant burning pain in her toes and the bridge of her foot.
Discolouration and swelling also took hold, meaning that Kathleen, of Melrose Crescent, Seaham, was unable to use her foot as she once had.
If her condition reaches the next stage of the illness, the muscle may begin to waste away.
She explained: "I would advise anyone to have the bunion operation as it needs to be done and the surgeon there is superb.
"What happened to me was just unforeseen. Nobody knows what could have caused it as not much is known about RSD. I think I must have a unique foot."
The results of the X-ray, coupled with Kathleen's symptoms, led doctors to diagnose reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), which is also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
It occurs when the part of the sympathetic nervous system that controls blood flow and sweat glands is disturbed and becomes overactive.
It can be triggered by infection, pressure on a nerve, heart attack, stroke or surgery, but it's usually brought on by injury.
Kathleen, who is married to Bill and is mum to Leanne, 25, says she would like to speak with other sufferers and perhaps set up a support group.
She said: "I was at a tribunal a couple of weeks ago to do with being refused mobility and the doctor there said that it's rarely known in the North East. When I heard that, I decided to put it on the map and let people know it exists."
If anyone wishes to speak to Kathleen about RSD they can contact her on 581 4306.
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