Catherine Brynach - “I wanted the life which I had before my accident and for me, Osseointegration was the path forward.”

In October 2020, amidst the challenges of the pandemic, Catherine Brynach, a vibrant and nature-loving wife, and mother of four from Wales, faced an unimaginable tragedy.

Whilst on an everyday trip to the shop to pick up dinner for her family, a vehicle struck Catherine and pinned her against a wall resulting in life changing injuries.

After being rushed to the hospital, surgeons decided that to give Catherine her best chance of survival, the best decision was to amputate her right leg above the knee. “It was an extremely scary time”, said Catherine. “I was in an induced coma for a week and when I woke up my family couldn’t visit due to the pandemic. It was a traumatising time for my family. Once I was finally able to go home; I waited until January to have any form of rehab and spent my time researching everything I could about prosthetics and rehabilitation.”

In February, Catherine visited Dorset Orthopaedic’s clinic in Burton upon Trent. “This is when things really changed. I arrived on the Monday in a wheelchair for a week of Residential Rehabilitation. On the Friday, I walked down the hallway with no crutches to meet my family, the progress I made was immense and helped me so much psychologically. By April, I had gotten to the peak point which my Physio, Beth Langley expected. They really went out their way at Dorset Orthopaedic, I even took my bike which they tried to adapt, but the problem was my socket, as it was catching on the saddle no matter how much they shaved it down,” continued Catherine. Despite having done so well during her rehabilitation, Catherine was hindered due to her socket causing her a magnitude of problems. This included discomfort, pain due to sores and blisters, feeling insecure, being unable to ride her bike and go on long walks as well as not liking the aesthetic of the socket.

Being a strong-minded person, Catherine decided not to settle for conventional sockets and looked for an alternative. She discovered Osseointegration and in May 2020, attended a consultation at the Royal Free Hospital in London to see if she would be a suitable candidate. Osseointegration (OI), is a pioneering procedure that involves fitting a titanium implant directly into the bone, allowing for a prosthesis to be connected. Relimb have collaborated with Dorset Orthopaedic since 2018 running regular multidisciplinary clinics at the Royal Free to assess new patients with clinical psychologists and anaesthetists to ensure that patients who are about to embark on this episode of surgery and rehabilitation are in the best physical shape and mental shape as possible. “My consultation was a whole day which was extremely informative and reassuring, I didn’t feel as though they were whitewashing anything and let me know any risks that could come with having the surgery. I was delighted to be told that I was an excellent candidate for OI. Due to the pandemic, I waited until 1st September and then went ahead with my surgery, there was excellent follow up care for pain management and I was provided with a personalised plan,” explained Catherine.

Returning to Dorset Orthopaedic for rehabilitation, Catherine began her rehab with Physiotherapists, Beth Langley and Emily Brader. Catherine started off in a wheelchair for the first few weeks and continued weight bearing until she was able to walk independently again. “At the clinic they ask you what you want to achieve and then discuss how they can help you to get there. I have so much respect for both the physios, I always felt like they had a plan and knew exactly how to deal with me, instead of wallowing- we got on with it. Since my accident I was having difficulty walking near traffic however they took me to the road to help get accustomed to it again and to build my confidence. Also, they knew it was important for me to practice walking on different terrains as Wales is very varied.

Since rehabilitating at Dorset Orthopaedic, Catherine has been able to return to her normal routine working, going on daily walks, looking after the children and travelling. She can go on bike rides and continue to volunteer walking dogs at the Cardiff Dogs Home, something she didn’t think she would be able to return to. “I wanted the life which I had before my accident and for me, OI was the way. It now takes me second to take on and off my leg whereas with a socket it was so difficult, I can keep the leg on all day, I can now feel the ground and immediately feel more stable. These little things you would never have to think about until it happens to you, but it makes such a difference,” said Catherine.

Catherine has taken her fate into her own hands and came on leaps and bounds since the accident due to her determination and resilience. “It’s important to focus on your small goals as these will lead to the big wins, OI was the way for me personally and I feel a lot freer now. It’s important if you are looking to have OI to do your research and speak to others who have had the surgery. I am lucky to be supported by incredible friends and family and I include Relimb and Dorset Orthopaedic in that.”