Losing a leg proves best in the long run

Aleina Beer, of Mossburn, who survived meningitis and septicaemia, had her lower leg amputated on Friday. Her goal is to represent New Zealand in the 2024 Paralympics in France. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

SHE wants to run.

Aleina Beer was placed in an induced coma in October 2019 after contracting meningitis and septicaemia. Photo: Supplied

For almost two years Aleina Beer has not been able to walk, but after having her lower right leg amputated at Dunedin Hospital last Friday, she hopes to be sprinting by Christmas.

The amputation was a daunting prospect, but compared with what the 25-year-old Southlander has been through in the past 20 months, after contracting meningitis and septicaemia, it was the best option for her to get her life back.

In 2019, Miss Beer, of Mossburn, a competitive horse rider, was finishing her third year at The Southern Institute of Technology, completing a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic and sports massage, and “just generally trying to keep fit and healthy”.

On October 14 of that year, she felt sick – similar to a cold, but with a stiff and sore neck.

She called her mum, Jayne, who took her to Southland Hospital where she was told it was likely a viral infection, given Panadol and told to go home, keep up her fluids and return if her condition worsened.

Mrs Beer stayed with her daughter that night decision which may well have saved her life.

In the middle of the night, Miss Beer woke up with a fever. She remembers her mother rushing her back to Southland Hospital and after that, nothing.

She was treated for meningitis and flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital about noon.

A rash started to appear and she was intubated and put in an induced coma for nine days.

She remained in the intensive care unit for three weeks and had now spent 141 days in hospital during which she lost her spleen, was left with chronic kidney disease and had 10 surgeries on her feet and right leg.

Last Friday, her right leg, from 12 centimetres below her knee, was amputated.

She credits her orthopaedic surgeon, Chris Birks, for doing all he could to “give me the opportunity to have a semi-normal life”.

She was back on her horse this season, without stirrups, but needed to use an iWALK hands-free crutch.

The decision to amputate her lower leg was not one made lightly. Further multiple surgeries would have led to that anyway.

“It’s just going to be better for me, being younger, and being able to adapt quicker, to just do it now.

“I want to be able to run and ride and do all the things I want to be able to do.”

While her full recovery post-surgery was expected to take six months, she hoped to be back on her horse and at work for Invercargill’s Peak Performance Massage “way before then”.

She also plans on setting in motion her next goal; representing New Zealand in dressage at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

“A lot of people say inspirational’, but to me, it’s just how I live.”