When you buy shoes, you probably expect them to come in pairs.
But what can you do if you’re an amputee or have a condition that means you can only wear one of them? Or what about people who need two different sizes?
As it’s pretty impossible to just go into a shop and buy one, Jo O’Callaghan set up a group to swap and share shoes between one shoe wearers or those who need footwear in different sizes.
Jo, now 46, from Tenterden, Kent, was inspired by her own experiences as in 2001, she had woken up with pain down the right-hand side of her body.
She had no idea what was happening – but it eventually led to the amputation of her right leg.
The mum-of-two was suffering from a rare condition complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) but it took 10 years for her to get a diagnosis.
The condition is caused by dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous systems, where the signals between the affected limb or body part and brain are misinterpreted.
By March 2017, her leg caused so much pain, she couldn’t wear anything on it, which meant that she had a pile of odd shoes building up.
So she set up the Jo’s Odd Shoes Facebook group and they now have almost 1,000 members and have around 1,000 shoes in stock at any one time.
Jo evenutally had an amputation last year and says that although it is not a cure for the condition and she is still in a lot of pain, it means she can go out without the fear of something touching that part of her leg.
Throughout her recovery, the odd shoe group has given Jo something to focus on and has been a source of support.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I had got to the stage where I couldn’t get into bed for fear of the covers touching my foot and the water from a shower would have me in tears and turn my skin black!
‘Going out shopping or in public was becoming a no-no because I was petrified someone would knock into that foot that was sticking out like a magnet to people.
‘Now I don’t fear that but the pain is still there.
‘The group gives me something to focus my pain on, but it’s still there 24/7.’
It was back in February 2001 that Jo’s ordeal started.
Jo says: ‘I was numb down my right-hand side. There was no reason for it but it certainly wasn’t right.
‘My GP sent me to A&E and I didn’t come home again for three weeks.
‘During my time in hospital, I had scans, lumbar punctures and blood tests but nothing definitive was found.
‘My body was starting to do things that I hadn’t experienced before. I had chronic headaches, a tremor, my hand went into contracture and the pain that was mainly down my right leg.’
Doctors had no idea what was causing Jo’s pain and she had more stays in hospital but still didn’t get a diagnosis.
She says: ‘I was beginning to get treatment for the pain. I started with simple pain killers and right up to morphine and fentanyl.
‘I had nerve blocks, epidurals and infusions of lidocaine and ketamine.
‘The only thing that touched the pain was the ketamine but the hallucinations were so bad that I couldn’t continue with it.’
Her leg slowly got worse and eventually, she could barely walk and she had symptoms that she now knows are classic signs of CPRS.
She says: ‘It was dystonic (it had gone into spasm and was stuck in that position), the skin was a horrible colour and my nails were beginning to fall off.’
But it wasn’t until 2011, 10 years since her pain started, that she was finally told she had CRPS.
‘I was excited to at last have a label but didn’t know what it stood for let alone what it was or whether there was a cure for it,’ she says.
CRPS is a complex condition and there are very few treatments available.
Treatments were not working for Jo and she was gradually getting worse.
By March 2017, she was in so much pain, she couldn’t let anything touch her leg and was only able to wear shoes on her right foot.
With spare shoes, Jo wanted to find a new home for her ‘lefts’.
‘I had got to the stage where I hadn’t been able to wear a shoe on my right foot for about six months.
‘Being a shoeaholic I was beginning to get a pile of size 6 lefts in the bottom of my wardrobe.
‘I knew I wasn’t the only person wearing one shoe I had spoken to others on a CRPS Forum.
‘So I thought I would trial ‘Jo’s Odd Shoes’.
‘Right from the start it got a fantastic response both with members and donors.
‘No we are 10 members off 1000.
‘We are receiving shoes on a regular basis from Schuh, Fat Face, Moss Bros, Next and plenty of others.
‘We don’t only help people who can only wear one shoe but we help people who have two feet of different sizes.’
The shoes are regifted free of charge, with people who want them just paying postage and packing costs.
Jo is now assisted by two women called Michele and Heather and they all store and redistribute the shoes.
She adds: ‘At any one time we have about 1000 shoes in stock, we take photos of them & post them on the facebook group in sizes so that members can easily look at what they want.’
Last year, on 5 November, Jo decided to have her leg amputated in a bid to help with her pain.
She explains: ‘Amputation was something that I had thought about for a while. There’s lots of talk about it amongst the CRPS community.
‘When pain is that bad you think it’s your only hope.
‘I discussed it with my doctors and did my own research.
‘I knew amputation is not a cure for CRPS. There is a high potential for reoccurrence of CRPS.
‘Having taken all this into account I thought “even if the pain doesn’t go but I get rid of my hideous looking foot, then its got to be worth it”, getting back into bed and having a shower would be a bonus for me and we’ll worry about the pain side of things after.’
Unfortunately, Jo realised quite quickly that the amputation had not reduced her level of pain.
She says: The surgery went well and I was excited to wake up without it. I left hospital a week later but by then I already knew that CRPS was my enemy for life.
‘I did try a prosthesis but was in tears within seconds – the pain was unbearable.
‘I’m glad to have got rid of that lump of meat at the end of my leg and I can now go shopping without the fear of knocking into people but the pain is a whole lot worse now.’
Source: Read Full Article