Soldier reveals how her legs were ‘sliced open’ because of a mysterious muscular condition
What's the scariest operation you've ever had? I can't even remember mine. It was an operation on my tear ducts when I was just a little kid, and luckily for me, I was too small to really understand what was going on at the time. If I'd had been an adult I then my hair probably would have turned white from fear. But for 21-year-old soldier Amber Jameson, the most terrifying, and painful, operation of her life was also the same one that saved her legs. Now she's opened up about how a rare and perplexing muscle disorder changed her life forever.
Amber, who hails from North Port, Florida, suffered from a "10 in a million" muscle condition after being put through the brutal US army training regime. Initially, she was diagnosed with "shin splints" (a general diagnosis for pain in the front of the lower legs) after repeatedly failing the four-mile runs that were part of her daily workouts. However, three years later, she doctors correctly identified that she had compartment syndrome, which is caused by a build-up of pressure in the compartments of the muscles.
Her condition made running extremely painful, and so Amber was forced to endure a number of extremely painful surgical procedures. First she had to go through a pressure test, where a four-inch needle was jabbed into each leg on eight different occasions. But then, most excruciatingly of all, Amber had a fasciotomy, where her leg muscles were cut open with a scalpel to relieve pressure.
Amber stated: "Sometimes, I’d just burst into tears when I was out running because of the pain. In my line of work this is embarrassing - when you’re surrounded by other soldiers who are yelling at you all the time to keep up. If you stop you get into big trouble. So, every day I would have to fight through an enormous pain barrier." Despite this, when asked about what the surgery was like, Amber answered: "I was terrified, as it sounded so serious, but it was good to know that it wasn’t my imagination and there would be an end to it. It was the most traumatic experience of my life."
She added: "Every week we would go for company runs as well as ruckmarches – an eight-mile march with a 45-pound rucksack on your back. Pretty soon it became really hard for me. My calves would become totally tensed up, my legs would bulge and my feet became so heavy that they seemed to be flapping against the ground. I’m naturally a very competitive person and not being able to keep up was really difficult."
"I saw a new doctor. He took one look and said the words ‘compartment syndrome'. He suggested I go for a pressure test and gave me some videos to watch, before I decided to go ahead with it. It was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen, I was freaking out wondering if it would be worth having these huge needles stuck into my leg. The normal pressure levels in the compartments of the muscles are below 35 – mine were over 100."
Happily, Amber's surgeries were successful, and now she is already looking to get back to the gym again, stating: "I’m a young woman and I like wearing shorts. So I said to the surgeon, please do this in a way that is as cosmetically appealing as possible. He has put in dissolvable stitches, but still, my legs look very ugly and I have to come to terms with that. I’m really far behind mentally at the moment, so going back to work is a bit daunting. But I am really excited to be able to run properly and exercise again. My main goal right now is actually to run a marathon sometime next year. I want to prove to myself that my difficulties weren’t down to me but down to the compartment syndrome."
Good luck Amber: you're an inspiration to us all!