“Losing a leg can define you or you can get on with living life”

ZIP-wiring across the River Tyne is not something a lot of 62-year-olds would consider. But then again, most 62-year-olds – and indeed most people – aren’t like Barbara MacIntyre as Deborah Johnson discovers…

Two years ago, Barbara had her left leg amputated after what should have been a routine knee replacement went badly wrong.

While losing a limb is often described as a ‘life changing’ procedure, Barbara has been determined not to allow it to change her life – such is her independence she continues to drive, resumed her job as a legal secretary, and even mows her own lawn at home.

Barbara, from South Shields, is now taking on her biggest challenge yet, by zip sliding off the Tyne Bridge on Saturday (April 16) in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance with a team of work colleagues.

“The reality of losing my leg was a massive thing to digest, but I’ve always looked on the bright side of everything, and was determined this wouldn’t stop me from doing so. People go through so much worse. I’ve always been independent and this was not going to change me, I just got on with it.”

“I love challenges and I have been determined not to let the fact I’ve lost a leg get in my way,” she said. “Something like this can define you, or you can get on with living your life. I’m lucky that I’ve always had a positive outlook so there was no way this was going to set me back.

“In my mind, there is nothing I can’t do, and I didn’t even consider not doing the zip slide. I do feel sorry for the people who will have to push me to the top, but I am thrilled to be doing it.”

Barbara took some time off work in late 2012 to undergo a knee replacement – a standard procedure, with a recovery time of several weeks – but quickly realised something was wrong when her knee became badly infected.

Zip wire challenge: Barbara MacIntyre, a legal secretary at Sintons Law Firm in Newcastle which has chosen the Great North Air Ambulance as its 2016 charity.

Zip wire challenge: Barbara MacIntyre, a legal secretary at Sintons Law Firm in Newcastle which has chosen the Great North Air Ambulance as its 2016 charity.

Over the course of the months ahead, Barbara underwent further surgery, under the supervision of Consultant Mr O’Brien at Sunderland Hospital, to try and repair the damage. But despite having a further knee replacement and then a metal rod inserted to replace her knee altogether, the infection could not be eliminated.

“I’ll never forget when I was told I would lose my leg – even though there had been various suggestions and hints that it might have to happen, it hit me like a steam train when it became a certainty. My infection count was so high, in the end there was nothing they could do. Most people’s are between 4 and 6 – mine was 364,” she said.

“I love challenges and I have been determined not to let the fact I’ve lost a leg get in my way,” she said. “Something like this can define you, or you can get on with living your life. I’m lucky that I’ve always had a positive outlook so there was no way this was going to set me back.”

“The reality of losing my leg was a massive thing to digest, but I’ve always looked on the bright side of everything, and was determined this wouldn’t stop me from doing so. People go through so much worse. I’ve always been independent and this was not going to change me, I just got on with it.”

After settling in her new home – Barbara was forced to move – her next priority was to return to the job she loved at Newcastle law firm Sintons.

“I was absolutely determined to drive again as that meant I could get to work, and scooters weren’t allowed on the Metro. So once I had my new car, I wanted to go back to Sintons. They have been so fantastic with me, throughout my time off for my operation and recovery, and then when I returned. I’ve had such support from friends and family, as well as from work, and I’m very humbled by it all.

“I keep being told that it’s brilliant I’m doing the zip slide, but to me, this is just normal. This is ‘me’ – it’s what I would have done two years ago before I lost my leg, and there is no way I’ll let that stop me now.”

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