A mum-of-two who was told she would never walk again after she lost both her legs due to meningococcal has defied all odds to transform her body to be the ‘fittest and strongest’ she’s ever been.
Penny Taylor, from New Zealand, was given 30 minutes to live after she inexplicably contracted the rare, life-threatening disease caused by a bacterial infection in November 2009.
She started experiencing severe vomiting at the age of 36 – but she put the symptom down to a ‘bug’ she caught from her kids, then aged three and seven.
But as her vomiting got progressively worse, her mum actually found her ‘unconscious’ and ‘unresponsive’ when she dropped by on her way home from work.
Within 10 minutes of reaching the hospital, Ms Taylor’s body turned black all over – as her family were told to expect the worst after she was given a two per cent chance of survival.
She was put on life support for 10 days as doctors tried desperately to revive her.
Penny Taylor (pictured), from New Zealand, lost both her legs after she contracted meningococcal – but she has since made a remarkable recovery to defy the odds to walk again
‘I looked like I had a severe case of frostbite. I was treated like a burns and frostbite patient, it was excruciating I can’t even put it into words,’ Ms Taylor, now aged 48, told Daily Mail Australia.
As she was clinging for her life in ICU, she underwent a 10-hour surgery to have her legs from the knee down, part of her left hand and most of her fingertips amputated.
‘I was in such a critical condition. I went into surgery and my family were told there was an extremely high chance I wouldn’t make it through the lengthy surgery… Ten hours later I was back in ICU and in the worst pain of my life,’ she said.
Before she woke up from her coma, her family was dealt another blow when doctors said she was likely going to be brain damaged due to the trauma in her body after all of her internal organs shut down.
‘They slowly brought me out of my coma,’ she said.
‘Initially my short-term memory was average, but it didn’t last long and thankfully all my organs recovered. If my mum hadn’t called in when she did, I wouldn’t be here.’
Once she got her prosthetic legs, Ms Taylor – who’s a manager of a tour guide company – found the strength to walk unaided at six months and back at work around the same time
Before and after: She has defied all odds to transform her body to be the ‘fittest and strongest’ she’s ever been
The mum-of-two now exercises six days a week – and she’s able to walk 5,000 steps every day
Penny Taylor’s typical exercise schedule
5,000 steps every day
Six days a week regaining strength: 3 x lower body, 1 x upper body and 2 x core circuits
For cardio, walk or ride exercise bike
One of the most heartbreaking moments of her life was being told by doctors she would never walk again.
‘I was told that due to my poor skin condition I would unlikely walk again. When you know the value of walking and being told “you’d never do that again” was the hardest thing to hear. I cried,’ she said.
‘I thought no way… there is always a way. Four months in a wheelchair and the frustration that comes with that had me more determined than ever.’
Once she got her prosthetic legs, Ms Taylor – who’s a manager of a tour guide company – found the strength to walk unaided at six months and back at work around the same time.
More than 12 years on, she is now the fittest and healthiest she has ever been.
‘When I look back, I see the first six years were about surviving what had happened, adjusting to my new way of life,’ she said.
‘I poured myself into anything that I classed as “normal” like working, running a house, being a parent and adjusting the kids into what I could do and what I couldn’t. It was a huge adjustment for everyone.’
Five years ago, Ms Taylor travelled to Australia to undergo osseointegration surgery – a ‘ground breaking’ procedure where a titanium rod is implanted into the tibia, offering better quality of life and improved function and mobility to amputees (pictured during the surgery)
The 48-year-old super mum with her daughter and son after she make a remarkable recovery
What she eats: Ms Taylor said her diet is high in protein to help with bone growth. Left of her breakfast – pancakes with bananas and strawberries, and right: dinner – chicken with salad
Penny Taylor’s typical day on a plate
BREAKFAST: Currently loving protein pancakes with fruit or I have protein oats
LUNCH: Salad with protein mainly chicken or eggs on English muffin or I make my own version of a McMuffin
SNACK: Cottage cheese on rice crackers or fruit
DINNER: I mix this up as need to cook for family as well. Always protein and salad or vegetables
DESSERT: Mini chocolate bar, I allow myself one each night
Five years ago, Ms Taylor travelled to Australia to undergo osseointegration surgery – a ‘ground breaking’ procedure where a titanium rod is implanted into the tibia, offering better quality of life and improved function and mobility to amputees.
‘I knew it would be two years of rehabilitation after the surgery, had to learn to walk all over again and I basically had to go back to start. It was a case of going back to the wheelchair in order to get to where I am today,’ she said.
‘After the rehab my mobility was mind-blowing, and I was feeling so alive.’
When she was ready to exercise, Ms Taylor visited five different gyms but she was told they couldn’t cater for her.
‘I was so disheartened,’ she said.
She discovered Move with Us, a science-based fitness program offering fully customised workouts and meal plans after her friend who’s an amputee told her about the platform.
‘I signed up for home workouts and have never left. The strength-based training was what I needed and now it’s what I love and train six days a week all from home,’ the mum said.
‘I’m so proud of myself, the journey has been long and sometimes so hard, but wow look at me go. I am so much stronger in body and in mind.’
By sharing her extraordinary story, Ms Taylor – who’s now exercising six days a week and working full time – said she wanted to prove to everyone that ‘anything is possible’.
‘I am now living my best life and the journey I have been on makes me the person I am today,’ she said.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is contagious. It is transmitted through close and prolonged contact with mucus from an infected person. Symptoms include a rash and fever. It can affect people of all ages, but can be prevented with vaccination.
There are five common strains of meningococcal disease in Australia – A, B, C, W and Y.
It’s a rare, but serious and life-threatening, infection. Symptoms appear suddenly and people can die very quickly without medical help.
There’s a range of symptoms, depending on its severity. Babies and young children can have different symptoms to older children and adults.
- rash of red or purple pinprick spots, or larger bruise-like areas
- neck stiffness
- discomfort when you look at bright light
- nausea or vomiting
- feeling very, very sick
Source: Australian Government Department of Health