Ex-lawyer’s woke to find leg alive with MAGGOTS leading to amputation

There were THOUSANDS of them’: Ex-lawyer’s horror as she woke to find leg alive with MAGGOTS leading to double amputation that ended career – after cut from fall down stairs got infected

  • Victoria Abbott-Fleming, 40, fell down stairs and suffered injury to her right leg
  • Both her legs had to be amputated after ulcers smelled like ‘rotting meat’
  • Before accident, at 24, she was married and just beginning her legal career 
  • The 12-year ordeal left her a double-amputee taking 66 pills everyday

A young lawyer was forced to have both her legs amputated after she woken to find sores around her ankles crawling with maggots. 

Victoria Abbott-Fleming, now 40, had fallen down a set of stairs at work and she thought she had suffered just bruising and cuts. 

Her leg became so infected that it swelled to triple in size, had weeping ulcers and smelled like ‘rotting meat’.

And her condition deteriorated so badly that she woke one morning to find her wounds swarming with maggots.    

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Victoria Abbott-Fleming, now 40, had fallen down a set of stairs at work and thought she had suffered bruising and cuts

Her leg became so infected that it swelled to triple in size, had weeping ulcers and smelled like ‘rotting meat’

‘I screamed the house down,’ she said. ‘There were thousands of them. I felt physically sick. I felt dirty, like I had rotting flesh. I wanted my leg off there and then.

‘The only way we could get rid of them was for my husband to throw water on them but my leg was so painful it felt like having an acid bath.

‘Anything that touched me felt like rubbing sandpaper on an open wound. By this point it was swelling so much it had split. 

‘It stunk to high heaven, you could smell me from one hundred metres away. I just cried and cried.’

At her lowest, desperate Victoria admitted she had even considered suicide.

Victoria (pictured at her call to the bar) was a rising star in the legal profession before having her tragic accident

‘I just couldn’t cope anymore; the smell, the pain.’

Eventually medics decided to amputate and by the end of 2006, aged 27, Victoria had her right leg removed below the knee.   

At 24, Victoria Abbott-Fleming’s life was perfect – she had just passed the bar exam and had landed a job working as head of law at a college.

But little did she know a seemingly innocuous tumble was about to turn her world upside down – leaving her a double amputee taking more than 60 pills a day to numb a chronic pain condition.

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In 2003, she was called to the bar but decided to get a job lecturing A Level law at a further education college before starting her Pupilage – the practical training required before someone can begin practising as a barrister. 

Victoria, now 36, was walking down the concrete stairs at Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College in Stockport when she slipped and fell.

Initially more embarrassed than hurt, she suffered a minor cut and bruising – but when the young teacher tried to stand she realised her leg was injured.

Helped to her car, she drove home. But alarmingly, within the three mile trip her leg had tripled in size, swelling so quickly it split the skin.

Her condition deteriorated so badly that she woke one morning to find her wounds swarming with maggots

The innocuous-looking cut (left) she suffered when falling down the stairs quickly swelled and went purple (right)

Victoria was rushed to hospital where she was initially dismissed with anti-inflammatory drugs in what would be the first of months of misdiagnosis.

In the meantime, she was suffering severe burning pain in her lower leg, and watched over the weeks as it changed colour from white to purple to black to bright red.

She described the pain as ‘like thousands of ice picks being pushed into the bone and skin’.

‘It felt like rough sandpaper against a wound, the sense of burning like my leg was sat in boiling oil or then changing like it was freezing in an ice block.’

Eventually, in April 2004, Victoria was sent to a pain clinic which diagnosed her with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) –  a severe and debilitating chronic pain condition which is usually triggered by an injury.

In severe cases it can cause atrophy in the affected limb as the skin, tissues, and bone waste away, leading to infection and even amputation.

Eventually medics decided to amputate and by the end of 2006, aged 27, Victoria had her right leg removed below the knee

Victoria was rushed to hospital suffering from swine flu while on holiday in New York with her husband

Victoria pictured on her wedding day in Las Vegas in 2006, during the height of her problems with her leg

Victoria said she tried every tried every treatment possible, from chilli based cream, permanent epidural, opiates and Ketamine to counselling and psychologists – yet nothing worked.

She also feared the condition would be the end of her relationship.

‘I thought my husband would not want me anymore,’ she said. ‘I kept thinking: “He won’t want me anymore. He didn’t marry me to be my carer at 25 years old! Why should he stay with a cripple?”‘

In the meantime, her leg worsened.

The swelling and open ulcers from her knee to her toes forced her to start using a wheelchair but the agony of the condition gave her little respite.

‘I couldn’t have anything touching my leg not only because of the hypersensitivity but also the clothes would stick to my open ulcers and then I would have to try and prise the cloth off my leg,’ she said.

‘These were the worst moments of my life and I will never ever forget them as long as I live.

‘The reason for the open ulcers was because I couldn’t have the strong binding over them due to the hypersensitivity and burning pain, so they had to be left.’

Despite doctors’ attempts to save her leg, the skin began breaking down with Victoria describing it as ‘elephant’s skin’.

Victoria Abbott-Fleming, pictured left and right with her husband when they first met while at university

Victoria tried every sort of treatment possible before doctors finally decided her leg must be amputated

 But things hit rock bottom in 2006 when, at 26, shoe woke to find her leg was maggot infested.

She told Wales Online: ‘You automatically assume that maggots mean dirt so I felt incredibly dirty,” she said.

‘Even before the maggots appeared I knew I could not go on with this leg so I made the decision to have it amputated.’

Tragically, while Victoria and her husband hoped the agony would be over, it was only just beginning.

The CRPS sufferer woke after the operation in extreme pain.

‘I screamed, I felt like my stump was in a vice being crushed. It was just the bandages round my leg.’

Sadly the pain wasn’t gone and within a year, Victoria would need to amputate another four inches from her leg – above the knee – after it became infected.

It took a total of 18 months to heal while the pain continues through to today.

The daily agony meant a prosthetic limb was impossible as she wasn’t able to put any weight on her stump.

Not only was she in severe pain, but her repressed respiratory and immune systems left her vulnerable and she repeatedly caught bouts of pneumonia.

After so many difficult years, she and her husband decided to go away for Christmas in New York in 2013.

Eventually, the condition spread to her left leg and doctors again had to amputate

Victoria pictured with her pet dog as she adjusts to life as a double above knee amputee with the help of her husband

Sadly, the trip was cut short when Victoria contracted life-threatening swine flu and had to be rushed into hospital. 

Her condition was so serious her lungs collapsed and doctors were forced to put her into an induced coma. She also required a tracheotomy to help with her breathing while she was air lifted back to the UK.

With less than 20 per cent chance of survival, Victoria pulled through only to find that the symptoms of CRPS had now begun in her left foot.

‘The doctors all said that the CRPS in my right stump should not go into my left leg; however this was wrong.

‘I had excruciating, burning pain 24 hours a day seven days a week – as if my leg and foot was put in an acid bath. The temperature on my leg on one day was measured at 18c and it was freezing cold to the touch with a purple and black mottled skin colouring.

‘I wanted to die, I didn’t want to go through it all again. But my husband has taught me life is precious and convinced me to stay.’

On December 15 – two days before her birthday – Victoria went in for surgery to have her second leg amputated.

However, it remains far from the end of her ordeal. She now survives on 66 tablets everyday to get through the pain.

The couple won a £2.1million pay-out from the college following the fall but said much of the cost had to go on medical care and converting their home.

And her condition has also left her unable to have children because the medication she is on would have serious affects on a foetus.

Victoria has now written a book on the three-year ordeal – a tale of caution but above all, a triumph of the human spirit in the most testing circumstances.

Her leg became so bad, it ‘stunk to high heaven’ and she considered suicide. Here she is pictured after the amputation surgery

Victoria has now written a book on the 12-year ordeal titled Burning Nights


The main symptom of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is severe, continuous and debilitating pain. It is usually confined to one limb, but can spread to other parts of the body in some cases.

The pain associated with CRPS is usually triggered by an injury, but is a lot more severe and long-lasting than you would normally expect – and is often completely disproportionate to the original injury suffered.

The pain is usually burning, stabbing or stinging, but there may also be a tingling sensation and numbness.

You may have periods of pain lasting a few days or weeks, called flare-ups, where the discomfort gets worse. Stress in particular can lead to flare-ups, which is why relaxation techniques are an important part oftreating CRPS.

If you have CRPS, your skin in the affected area can become very sensitive, and even the slightest touch, bump or change in temperature can provoke intense pain.

In severe cases it can cause atrophy in the affected limb as the skin, tissues, and bone waste away, leading to infection and even amputation.


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