When Isabelle Papandronicou spent twelve years in agony with a broken leg she couldn’t walk, let alone ride a horse.
Now, thanks to a brave decision she made to have her leg amputated, it has changed her life. She has learnt to play polo and competes in national tournaments across the UK using her prosthetic leg.
Miss Papandronicou, 25, who lives in London, said: ‘It’s been only this year that I finally feel my prosthetic leg fits well with lots of support.
”It’s been such an improvement on how my life was before the operation. Polo is a fast-paced sport, but I never let my leg hold me back. I absolutely love it. It’s all about balance and skill.
”Other people who are watching and are on the field playing too don’t always realise that I’ve got a prosthetic leg on.”
Miss Papandronicou was born with a rare congenital condition called Pseudarthrosis of the tibia – which is where the leg fractures spontaneously and doesn’t heal.
She said: ”My bone first started to bend at the age of two and it kept breaking again and again. I had surgery to try and fix it, but it never worked. I had a constant broken leg for twelve years.
”I had multiple surgeries to fit metal cages on my leg, where they would cut out the ‘bad’ bit of bone and try and encourage it to grow back and knit together. But it never worked.”
Miss Papandronicou made the brave decision at the age of 14 to ask doctors to amputate her leg.
She said: ”It wasn’t a decision that many young teenage girls would want to make, but I wanted to try to live a life that was free from pain.
Leg in cage support (Image: )
”My mum’s friend knew the model Heather Mills who had lost her left leg when she was involved in a traffic collision with a police motorcycle. I could see how she lived such a fulfilling life, so it gave me hope that if she could do it, then so could I.
The amputation was carried out in January 2012 at Stanmore Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
She said: ”When I woke up and saw my leg missing and my stump wrapped in bandages it was daunting – I knew that I had a lot to learn ahead of me, with learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. But it was such a relief not to have my leg broken constantly, and endless surgery too. I was ready to live my life – and now it was going to be with a prosthetic leg.
”I had my prosthetic leg fitted six weeks later. It was a strange feeling at first, but I soon got used to it. I didn’t have any problems adapting to it, it was just the case of how to learn to walk, and straight away I could walk better than before I’d lost my leg. I had physiotherapy too to try and help me.
”I’ve had a lot of problems with the fitting of my new leg over the years – the doctors couldn’t seem to get the fitting quite right, and it would cause me pain and discomfort.
”But it’s still given me such a better quality of life and was the best decision that I ever made.”
Several years ago Miss Papandronicou decided that she wanted to try and learn to play polo and now plays with an able-bodied team called Greenpoint Polo.
She said: ”I now train with the team once a week and we play matches. I got my first handicap rating in 2019 and I haven’t looked back.
Miss Papandronicou has been supported by the charity LimbPower (Image: )
”We now play at tournament level and recently won matches in May and August.
”Having my leg amputated really gave me my life back. Trying to go out with a huge metal cage around my leg really held me back. Now I feel like I can achieve anything I want to.”
Miss Papandronicou has been supported by the charity LimbPower, which supports children who have had limbs amputated, and their families too.
She said: ”It’s great to go and meet other children and adults who have also had limbs amputated, and give each other support.
”I’m certainly living life to the full now, and making up for all those years with a broken leg.”
For more information visit www.Limbpower.com