Melbourne woman fears Covid knee surgery delays will mean her leg is cut off

Melbourne woman fears Covid knee surgery delays will mean her leg is cut off

A woman suffers crippling pain and may lose her leg after Covid delayed vital surgery for years.

Lisa Hellebrand has waited two years and four months for surgery by Western Health in Melbourne to fix her knee with no end in sight.

The 47-year-old fears the longer she is forced to wait, the higher the chance her leg will need to be amputated.

‘I am in pain constantly, I’m so tired, mentally and physically. It’s so hard to keep going every day,’ she said.

The grandmother takes dozens of prescription pills a day and survives on microwave meals as she can no longer stand long enough to cook.

She told A Current Affair she used to be a keen gardener, but hasn’t been able to tend to her garden for months.

There were tens of thousands of Australians waiting for elective surgery before the pandemic, but neurosurgeon Patrick Lo said Covid made the problem worse.

He said doctors and nurses were already ‘tired, overworked [and] under-resourced’ before the pandemic.

But add on to that – a pandemic – we’re just struggling. Essentially, we’re all drowning underwater.’

Ms Hellebrand’s injury came from an accident on a night out with friends.

‘One of the girls picked me up and threw me into an outdoor spa and I landed on the bottom step with a straight leg,’ she said.

She is in constant pain and the longer she waits, the worse it gets.

Ms Hellebrand needs to have a prosthetic patella, synthetic ligaments, and a tendon transplant.

If that doesn’t work, her leg will need to be permanently fused straight, or amputated.

I’m just a number to them and me having to wait longer and longer for this operation, I’ve got a higher chance of losing a leg,’ she said.

Ms Hellebrand understands the need for a waiting list to prioritise cancer patients and urgent medical procedures.

‘But for me, this is urgent within myself because it has put my whole life on hold,’ she said.

She has been told she could be waiting at least six more months for treatment.

As well as Covid, the visa process for overseas nurses and doctors is making the waiting lists across the country longer.

Tom Symondson from the Victorian Healthcare Association said the federal government should make the visa process easier for health workers and ‘we also need to make sure that we’re not burning out the staff that we’ve already got’.

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