'My theatre group saved my life on a Zoom call,' says amputee

Kay Graham spent seven weeks at the Royal Free Hospital

Kay Graham spent seven weeks at the Royal Free Hospital - Credit: Kay Graham

A “determined” pensioner whose leg was amputated after suffering a near-fatal aneurysm has vowed to “get on with life”.

Kay Graham, who lives by herself in Hampstead Garden Suburb, had her life saved by her drama group after collapsing on April 7 while she spoke during a virtual session over Zoom.

When one of the Garden Suburb Theatre members noticed the 80-year-old suddenly “slid off the screen”, they called an ambulance and paramedics found the former teacher had suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

The Garden Suburb resident spent nearly two weeks in intensive care at the Royal Free – but she defied the odds and the doctors’ predictions by pulling through.  

However when she came around, Kay woke to find her right leg had been removed as part of her life-saving treatment, due to problems with blood supply.  

“If my drama group hadn't called the ambulance I would have been found dead on the floor the next morning,” Kay told the Ham&High.

“The hospital rang my children and told them I had a pretty low chance of survival but they said ‘oh she’s a tough old cookie, she'll survive’.” 

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According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, there is a mortality rate of about 80% in patients with ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, and only around half of patients who undergo emergency surgery survive. 

“That it happened in the five or ten minutes while I was speaking on Zoom out of the whole week... I mean what are the chances of that for a start? Let alone me actually making it through the surgery,” Kay said.  

The 80-year-old spent 10 weeks in hospital. Since being back home the mother-of-two has got by using a wheelchair but only on her ground floor. Kay will have a prosthetic leg fitted shortly before learning to walk all over again.  

“I reflect on it all by thinking how easily I couldn't have been here,” she said. “Being with one leg isn't exactly a bundle of fun but it's better than the alternative and I'm just the sort of person who gets on with it.

“People keep telling me I’m amazing and wonderful and all the rest of it, but basically I’m just me. I’m fairly stubborn and fairly determined and I suppose relatively optimistic, so I just get on with it and plan the next stage.” 

Looking ahead, Kay said she hoped to get back to the theatre, museums and exhibitions, but she also accepted the physical limitations that would now restrict her life.  

“I’m 80 and when you’re my age you have a slightly more balanced view of life. I’ve done masses of travelling, I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt – so if I can’t do it again then so be it.”