'Losing my leg made me a mum': How only mother in army to lose her limb in war zone battled through 19 operations to look after her beloved little girl
06:53 GMT, 16 April 2012
You might think having her leg shattered in an Iraqi mortar attack was bad enough.
But for Hannah Campbell, the only mother in the British Army to lose a limb in a war zone, it was just the start.
The blast buried Hannah and left her partially blinded in one eye and needing plastic surgery on wounds to her face.
Hannah Campbell, the first mother to lose a limb after a bomb attack in Iraq in 2007, is planning to run the London marathon. Pictured here with her daughter Milly
She was successfully dug out of the rubble, but then had to endure 19 painful operations as doctors battled to save her leg.
Following that she suffered Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her weight ballooned to 21 stone and her
five-year-marriage hit the rocks.
Then she had one final operation to remove her leg and now, 18 months on, the proud mother of seven-year-old Milly says she's begun to rebuild her life.
Hannah, from Winchester, told the Sunday Mirror her left leg is gone, but her life is back.
The building after the blast which buried Hannah and left her with multiple injuries
Horrific injuries: Hannah Campbell after the blast. It took two-and-a-half hours to dig her out of the rubble
'After I was injured it was so, so hard because I couldn't even do the basics with my wounded leg. I couldn't bath Milly, I couldn't cook her dinner… all the things mums take for granted.
'I felt a bit redundant as a mother.
And I carried a lot of guilt over what had happened and how it affected
her. Now she has her mummy back.'
Milly, who will never know how close she came to losing her mother back in June 2007, agreed saying she loves having 'girly' time with and going on walks.
up in the village of Kirksanton, Cumbria, Hannah became desperate to
see the world, so she signed up in 2002 to do a nursing degree with the
Two years in, she
transferred into the Adjutant General's Corps, a personnel support
division that attaches itself to other regiments.
She had fallen in love with another member of the General's Corps, Jamie, who she married in 2004.
Milly was born a year later. In 2007,
Jamie was scheduled to go to Afghanistan until an opportunity arose for
Hannah to go on her first tour to Iraq alongside The Royal Artillery,
Just a day before Hannah's flight home on June 18, disaster struck.
She was on guard duty when the attack came. The very last thing she
remembers is hearing shots fired. A bomb hit the building, instantly
reducing it to rubble, with Hannah still inside.
In a previous interview
with the Mail, she said: 'I was so tightly buried I could barely open my
lips to call out. There was so much pain.'
But Hannah managed to scream long
enough before passing out for nearby guards to hear her and start
digging in the rubble — despite their own wounds.
Hannah Campbell (second right) as part of Windsor Platoon, 2 Section Army Training Regiment, in Winchester in 2002
A few minutes later, an American Special Forces team arrived and helped pull Hannah free. It took two and a half hours to dig her out.
she woke up in a field hospital, she had no idea of the extent of her
injuries. She had a metal shard through her left cheek and nerve damage
to the back of her left eye.
Eighteen months after she underwent surgery, the proud mother of seven-year-old Milly says she's begun to rebuild her life
Her eardrums were perforated, she had
a traumatic brain injury, her left hand was split through the tendons
between her second and third fingers and there was a metal pole sticking
through her left thigh.
She was also covered in shrapnel cuts and burns. But her left foot was the worst — her heel bone and the joints around it had shattered.
Back in Britain, Jamie had been told of Hannah’s injuries just hours after the bomb struck, when officers showed up at his door at 11pm.
But he didn’t know whether she had lost limbs, was blind or brain damaged.
After emergency medical attention in Iraq, Hannah was stabilised enough to be flown to the specialist military unit at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, where Jamie and Milly greeted her.
She was so swollen that Milly walked past without recognising her.
Hannah was discharged at the end of July. But as the months went by,
she couldn’t escape the pain from her foot. She became wheelchair-bound
and her weight doubled to 21 stone. She was prescribed a painkiller
usually given to terminal cancer patients and diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder.
'I was very angry all the time,'
says Hannah. 'Angry because it had happened, angry that I was consumed
with pain. I couldn’t take care of Milly. I felt like no one understood
me. It put enormous strain on my relationship with Jamie.'
wasn't until Hannah's GP suggested she consider amputation in late 2009
that she really gave it some thought. Her surgeon, Professor Keith
Porter, agreed it might be best.
The operation took place in July 2010.
But three days later Hannah suffered serious complications. Her kidneys
failed and she suffered respiratory failure. For 10 days she clung to
life in a coma.
Three weeks later, Hannah was transferred to Headley Court. Within just
two weeks she was walking again, thanks to a range of prosthetic legs.
Friends and family have been supportive — even the women at her local beauty salon.
asked if they'd mind if I brought in my prosthetics and they didn't.
Now when I get a pedicure, I take the legs to get their nails done to
match. I have red on one, pink on another and a psychedelic
Sixties-style pattern on another.'
She's also enjoying being back in high heels and hopes to run the London Marathon on Sunday to raise money for BLESMA, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association.
Back on track: Hannah, serving with 19 Tank Transporter Squadron, was on sentry duty in Basra when an insurgents' mortar hit the building she was guarding