I’d volunteered to mow my parents’ lawn when I heard a sickening crunch…
By Victoria Hughes, 30, from Widnes, Cheshire
Draining the last of my wine, I put my glass down on the kitchen table and headed out to the back garden.
‘It’s all right Mum, I’ll do the lawn,’ I called out behind me.
My partner Chris and I had popped in to visit my parents that warm, June afternoon and I’d volunteered to cut the grass for them.
‘Do you really think that’s a good idea?’ Mum asked, looking first at my empty wine glass and then at my flimsy footwear.
It was a lovely summer’s day and I was wearing a summer dress and flip flops.
‘I’ll be fine, honestly. I like doing it,’ I replied, squinting into the sunshine.
I loved the outdoors and had always fancied myself as a bit of a gardener. I was definitely the green-fingered one of the family.
‘At least let me help you,’ Chris said as we moved benches and other garden furniture out of the way.
The lawnmower roared into life and I’d done most of the grass when Chris offered to finish it off for me.
‘Come on,’ he said. ‘I’ll do the rest. You go and sit down.’
I looked up and replied: ‘No really, I’ll have it finished in no time…’
As I was chatting to Chris, I absent-mindedly gave the mower a kick with my left foot – just as my hand was hovering over the on button, and I accidentally pressed it.
That’s when I heard a sickening crunch and a really strange feeling came over me. In that moment, I knew instantly what I’d done… I’d kicked the blade while it was turning, wearing flip-flops.
‘Are you ok?’ Chris said, rushing up to me. ‘I heard a horrible noise.’
We looked down where blood was gushing from my foot – and my big toe was flapping around, hanging on by a tiny piece of skin.
I hopped over to the back step where I sat down and surveyed the damage.
‘Oh my God, Victoria, I’m calling an ambulance,’ Chris panicked.
‘What’s going on? What’s happened?’ Mum asked as she came to see what all the commotion was about.
‘I’ve chopped my toe off,’ I replied, calmly. I think I must have been in shock, because although my toe was barely still attached to my foot, I didn’t feel any pain.
‘Oh no, hold it up – show me!’ Mum exclaimed.
‘I can’t, Mum. I’m holding it on.’
Dad rigged up a couple of plastic garden chairs and held up my foot, keeping it elevated. ‘Get down,’ he shooed our cat at the time, Phoebe, away. She was trying to lick my toe!
That’s when I began to feel hot and thirsty. ‘It must be the shock,’ Mum said. ‘I’ll get you a glass of water.’
I drained the glass and immediately asked for another one.
‘I’ve just got off the phone to the ambulance,’ Chris came back outside. ‘They said that because it’s a non-emergency we’d be better off bringing her in ourselves.’
Dad took one look at me, propped up on the garden furniture, and knew I couldn’t walk anywhere.
‘Right, we’ll carry you to the car, you can lie down on the back seat. Here, Chris, give me a hand.’
So Dad and Chris bundled me into the back seat of the car where I wedged my foot up on a head rest.
At Whiston Hospital, Cheshire, I was taken straight into X ray.
‘We need to get the wound cleaned up first,’ a doctor said, as they removed the grit and grass from my toe.
It was agony and I was given ketamine for the pain then.
‘There’s really not much bone left at all,’ a surgeon explained afterwards. ‘Just three tiny fragments. We’ll need to operate to insert a metal wire to encourage it to knit back together.’
The pain was excruciating by then and for the first time, I cried. ‘What if I lose my toe?’ I sobbed.
I was assured that there was enough blood flow in the skin still attaching the toe to the rest of my foot, to operate.
But it wasn’t until 12 noon the next day, that I was wheeled in for surgery. It was a complicated three-hour operation, which required both an orthopaedic and a plastic surgeon.
‘You had a lucky escape,’ my amazing surgeon, Mr Chan, told me afterwards. ‘The operation was a success. We’ve even managed to save the toenail. Wearing flip-flops, it’s a wonder you only damaged one toe.’
I spent the next three months sitting down while I recovered, wearing a cast up to my knee. It was hell, as I normally enjoyed such an active lifestyle.
My left leg withered because it wasn’t being used and looked like a sparrow’s leg! It took another three months to learn to walk on my foot again but thankfully, by January 2014, I was back on my feet.
This January, I was back in Whiston Hospital – giving birth to our little boy, Joshua, who was delivered by emergency Caesarean section.
The maternity staff were just as amazing as Mr Chan and the team who pieced my toe back together.
I haven’t been put off from mowing the lawn after my gory gardening experience – but now, I make sure I wear big boots in the garden!