Doncaster woman who was bedbound with rare illness now training to become a doctor

Nearly 10 years ago, Amy Kennedy was bedbound by illness for a year at the age of just 13.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 5:37 pm

The youngster from Wheatley Hills had been struck down by a rare and painful illness called complex regional pain syndrome.

Treatments prescribed by doctors had failed, and the youngster feared she would never walk again and would suffer pain for the rest of her life.

Amy became well known in Doncaster as a successful campaign to send her to America for pioneering treatment gathered momentum.

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Amy Kennedy at home in Wheatley Hills with her sister Lucy before her operation
Amy Kennedy at home in Wheatley Hills with her sister Lucy before her operation

But this week, Amy, now aged 23, has revealed she has turned her life around and is now training to be a doctor herself.

She is now a far cry from the bedbound youngster who first complained of knee pain around the age of seven but was never diagnosed despite several trips to the doctor, MRI scans and numerous x-rays.

It was only when she fell awkwardly in January 2019 while at a dancing class in Kirk Sandall that her condition got gradually worse.

Her chiropractor referred her to Sheffield Children’s Hospital and she was diagnosed with an illness that caused “crippling pain”, leading to them finding further treatment at The South Texas Innovative Medicine Centre - but at a cost of around £50,000.

Amy Kennedy (front), aged 14, with her mum Zoe Kennedy, sister Lucy Kennedy, aged nine, and friend Rebecca Beresford, aged 14, at home in Wheatley Hills.

The community rallied to raise the cash – and Amy remains grateful to those who helped. And in September 2011, she travelled from her home on Adlard Road for treatment using a machine called a Vector machine, which involved the application of an electrical current to pads placed on her body.

Eight years on, her life has been transformed. She is now able to walk, although she still uses crutches to avoid putting too much weight on her leg.

She said: “I was 15 when I went to America, and I think that is the only reason that I’m walking today. I came back from the US after three weeks in 2011 and I’m still using the electrical machine twice daily. I’ve taken it to university with me.

“I started to notice a difference in the first week of being in America. They had encouraged me to get off the painkillers and sleeping pills that I had been taking prior to that, but that period seems quite foggy in my memory. I don’t remember very much about the year I was bed bound.

Amy Kennedy, right, with sister Lucy, left.

“But I do know that I went from being bed bound, travelling with ambulance assistance to the airport, and medical assistance to the aeroplane, to being able to just use a wheelchair taxi on the way back. But I was still in a wheelchair with my leg elevated.

“When I got back to Doncaster, I was still in bed most of the time, but I could get to the wheelchair and get to the kitchen. Those were big changes in three weeks.

“I was able to walk on crutches for the first time when I was 17, about two years after I got back.

“I still use crutches, and my leg can bear weight with them, but not without them. I've been left with some problems with my joints that I don’t think will reverse, and I’m still under an orthopedic surgeon, and I think I have recovered as much as I will ever do now. I don’t want to have any surgery. I think I’m as good as I will get. But there was a time when I never thought I would be able to stand up again. When I was 13, I couldn’t have imagined being where I am now.”

Amy attended the Maple Centre special school, before becoming mobile enough to attand Danum School. She is full of praise for the staff at Maple and remembers how some of them studied statistics so that they could teach her the subject.

She had always been attracted to being a doctor and the idea of helping people, but stopped thinking about it after she become ill. At that time, all she thought about was getting better.

The thought of being a doctor re-emerged gradually, after she had started at sixth form.

“I decided I wanted to be a doctor, but I was told I would struggle, because I didn’t have a chemistry A level or GCSE. I looked at being a paramedic – but because of my mobility issues there is no way I could do that. I couldn’t run about on an ambulance on crutches.

“I decided I may not be able to get mobile, but I could get smarter, so looked at ways I could still become a doctor.”

Instead, she found out about a medicine access course that she could take in Bradford, which would fill in the gaps in her chemistry education. Amy suffered a flare up of her leg problem during her first year, putting her plans back a little. But the grades she got in her second year were enough for her to join a medicine degree course in Leeds as a second year student the following year.

The result was that she started that course in September.

She enjoyed her time in Bradford, making a lot of new friends and taking up sport – water polo. It was a sport that allowed her to play without putting pressure on her leg.

Now she is learning on the wards and meeting patients as well as looking at how she may specialise in the future.

She has also been involved in charity and campaigning work, taking part in World Restart a Heart Day by showing people how to perform CPR.

“What I want to do next changes all the time,” said Amy. “I have tutors and mentors who inspire me. I’m really interested in emergency medicine. I thought about neurology at one point, but I think that would just be a bit too close to home, with my own condition. I think what I have been through may make it hard to be objective with neurololgy.

“Sometimes I can’t believe where I am now, after where I was ten years ago. There was a time when I never thought it would be possible.”

Younger sister Lucy is proud of her. She said: “Bearing in mind where she was ten years ago, I’m surprised at what she’s achieved. But if she believes she can do something, I know that she can.”