‘She’s a hero:’ Winchester Grandmother recovering after limbs amputated following Hawaii trip
OTTAWA — Gale Ramsden says she still hasn’t processed all that she’s lost.
At the very top of that list is her independence.
In November 2019, Ramsden and her daughter and granddaughters were on the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to Hawaii sparked by the young girls’ love of Moana movies.
“It was a wonderful holiday,” she said. “It was absolutely fabulous. We were sort of up on a hillside on the North Shore of Oahua, in a little condo that overlooked the crashing waves and it was just idyllic.”
But once back home, her world would come crashing down.
“It started out just feeling like the flu and then I got really weak and freezing cold. I could not get warm. I had uncontrollable tremors,” said Ramsden.
Innocent-looking bug bites became infected. It was a rare case of necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria. By the time Ramsden arrived at a Winchester hospital, she was crashing. She was transferred to the Ottawa Hospital. Sepsis had taken hold.
On Dec. 1, 2019, Ramsden was rolled into surgery. The original plan was to amputate a leg to save her life, but the situation was worse than expected.
After consultation with her grown children, doctors made the decision to amputate both legs, one below the knee, the other above. Ramsden says she cannot imagine what that moment was like for her children.
“To have to actively say ‘Yes, take her legs’ must have been a terrible thing for my kids to do. Even if it meant saving my life. So I think they were really brave.”
Ramsden would have nine surgeries in an effort to contain the damaging effects of sepsis, which was causing her kidneys to fail. One of those surgeries included removing fingers from her right hand.
Then, a final devastating blow.
“On Christmas Day, I had the rest of my left hand amputated at the wrist.”
Ramsden says she tries every day to focus not on what she cannot do, but on what she can. However, she admits she’s still in the grieving process for what she has lost.