Whitby Army veteran choosing to have leg amputated to give her a better quality of life
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Emmalee Lax, 28, first joined the Army at 16, training at Army Foundation College in Harrogate before going into the Royal Artillery regiment.
A promising career, which included a tour of Afghanistan, beckoned but in 2012, she developed severe leg pain.
At first she thought it was shin splints but doctors believe it was the result of rigorous training, and joining the Army at a young age while her body was still developing.
“I saw an Army GP who told me to crack on,” she said.
"I didn’t want to lose my career, I was fit, always did well at PT but would be in agony for days afterwards.”
She managed the pain for five years without improvement.
Emmalee, who reached the rank of Sergeant, recalls an incident when she was training recruits in Harrogate in 2017, taking them on a four-mile run on a trim trail obstacle course.
"I was just cooling down and had this awful pain just above the ankle in my left leg,” she said.
"I was in tears and all these 16-year-olds were looking at me and thinking ‘what’s wrong with her?’”
She had surgery on her 24th birthday in 2018 to decompress the nerves in her leg, followed by rehab and physio – but nothing has relieved the pain and in early 2021, another operation followed, but the nerve damage just got worse.
After being discharged from the Army last year on medical grounds after serving her country for 12 years, she went to James Cook for a fresh opinion where a surgeon who had also served in the forces suggested a below-knee amputation would be the best solution.
She had got to the point where she was walking with a limp and was struggling to sleep at night.
Emmalee, who lives on Runswick Avenue in Whitby, said: "Amputation was always on the cards, I’ve been in pain for 10 years.
"In my opinion, I didn’t have a choice, it was either carry on in pain with a poor quality of life or be fit and well.
"I’m positive, I know it’s coming round soon.
"I genuinely am feeling like there’s something to look forward to even though it’s a big thing.
"I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.
"Hopefully it’ll help other people going through a similar situation.”
Since leaving the forces, Emmalee has worked as a project co-ordinator for a Stockton engineering firm and also as a tattoo model on social media.
After next month’s operation, Emmalee will then have to wait up to 12 weeks to have the prosthetic fitted but she knows it is the right decision to move forward, however daunting it feels.
And she has bold aims for her future, hoping to represent Great Britain as a Paralympian in swimming or running.
"I’m hoping everything goes fine and then there’s no stopping me,” she said.