Amputate my leg so I can walk the beat, says Bristol PCSO
WE all have hopes for the new year, but one Bristol woman has an unusual wish – to have her leg amputated.
For the last six years Tania Goddard has walked the streets of Knowle, helping to keep law and order through her job as a PCSO. But each day she steps out on her Filwood beat is an agonising challenge.
Mrs Goddard has a genetic condition which causes her left leg to swell up like a balloon. It leaves her in so much pain that by the time she clocks off at the end of each shift she is in tears. But next month she will finally get what she wants – to have her damaged leg amputated.
And Mrs Goddard is determined to strap on a prosthetic limb and be back on the job within six months – sooner, if she can manage it.
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Mrs Goddard, who lives in Horfield, was born with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins.
What started as a small bruise when she was born spread from her toes to her waist, causing the veins in her leg to bulge out.
The 38-year-old mother-of-three said: "Basically it meant that my leg aged three times faster than the rest of me. My leg is purple and lumpy and swells up like a balloon. As soon as I get out of bed in the morning my leg swells. It can grow by anything from 2in to 6in bigger than the other leg, and is very painful."
At first doctors told her parents she would never walk, but her father soon had her striding around on the carpet at the family home in Horfield.
Mrs Goddard spent much of her childhood in and out of hospital, missing a lot of school with the constant pain, and was told there wasn't a cure for her condition.
She was also bullied by her classmates at Filton High School for being different and mocked for not being sporty like her sisters.
Mrs Goddard said: "One day my sister was running the 1,500m and everyone was saying how athletic she was and how I didn't do sports. I decided to run it and came fourth. But I paid for it for a month and ended up in hospital with the pain.
"My dad wasn't very happy about it when he found out, but I wanted to prove that I could do something."
Mrs Goddard showed that same bravery when in 1992 she had an operation to remove veins from her ankle and the back of her leg.
She said: "They removed some of the veins because they were bulging out so much. I joked that I had never seen my ankle bone before, but as soon as I stood up the blood flowed straight down my leg and they popped back out again."
By this time she had already met her husband Richard, and was mum to their young son, Daniel. She put herself through college and went on to work for an insurance company.
But six years ago she fulfilled her dream of joining the police.
She said: "I always wanted to be a police officer, but having a bad leg I never thought it would be possible.
"So when the new rules over disability discrimination came in I thought I would apply and try to work my way up."
She is now part of the Filwood beat team, carrying out high-visibility patrols, working with victims of crime and helping tackle anti-social behaviour. The constant swelling makes her work agony, but she puts on her leg calipers and doses herself up with strong pain killers ready to face the day.
She said: "With my job, if I keep busy enough it keeps my mind off the pain. Most nights I am in tears when I get back home.
"It helps when I go out to talk to people. I am not the fastest PCSO on our beat, but I don't have to chase people down in my role. There is nothing I can't do. I just need a little longer than some of the other staff."
But another operation last year left her with no strength in her knee, and now when she is off duty she uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around.
Mrs Goddard has already lost a kidney as a side-effect of taking so many painkillers, and doctors have advised her that there is nothing else they can do for her leg.
She said: "I have been told there is nothing further they can do, and it is only going to get worse and worse. I am only 38, and I don't want things to get like that. Since I was eight I have said I don't want the leg any more and wanted them to take it away, so I am going to have it amputated just above the knee."
The operation – which she hopes will take place at Southmead Hospital in January – comes with no guarantees of a cure, and the AVM could still grow elsewhere.
She said: "I am scared of the AVM growing somewhere else. I have wanted it off all my life, but when you are told that it could go somewhere else you get a few mixed emotions.
"The only way I am looking at it is that there is a slim chance there may be less pain."
But it will also give Mrs Goddard the chance to be a better mum to Daniel, son Joshua, 13, and daughter Louize, nine. Her children are looking forward to no longer hearing her cry out in the night with pain, and Louize is looking forward to going shoe shopping with her mum to buy her first pair of heels.
Her husband is also looking forward to seeing her get better.
He said: "It would be really nice to see Tania in less pain. We know there are no guarantees, but looking at a loved one on a daily basis in as much pain as she is, when you can't do anything about it, is torture for me.
"Her courage and resilience are amazing and she won't give up, no matter what."
But for the moment Mrs Goddard's main goal is to get the operation out of the way, get on the road to recovery and get back on with her job with a prosthetic leg.
She said: "My whole life I have done things I have been told I wasn't allowed to do, regardless of the consequences.
"I love my job and it is the only thing that keeps me going. I am going to have a prosthetic leg, and the surgeon said that after six months he could walk past me in the street and wouldn't know.
"That is my goal – to be back on the beat within three to six months. Once I have my leg fitted I am intent on putting my uniform on and going back out and doing my job.
"The only way I look on it is that they have soldiers coming back from Afghanistan with limbs blown off, and some of them go on to do marathons. If they are doing that, I am sure I can do this job. If I have a prosthetic leg and I can be a proper mum to my kids and live my life then that means the world to me."