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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Amputee's battle for artificial limbs
helen smith
Helen Smith lost all her limbs following meningitis
The NHS has been heavily criticised for its provision of equipment to disabled people. BBC News Online looks at one woman's experience.

NHS in crisis
Helen Smith had both her arms and legs amputated after suffering near fatal meningitis, and then faced a struggle to get suitable artificial limbs from the NHS.



The limbs I was given where very, very uncomfortable

Helen Smith
She says she was let down by the system because of the poorly fitting and inadequate equipment she was offered.

She says the prosthetics - artificial limbs - she was given by Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge were of limited use.

Claw hook

The artificial arms came with a claw hook for a hand and the artificial legs were plastic at the joint, causing blisters.

There were also problems getting the limbs fitted properly, leading to her having a series of artificial legs which she does not use.

Ms Smith, who is training to swim in the Paralympics, said: "The limbs I was given where very, very uncomfortable. They gave me enormous blisters and I couldn't wear them for more than an hour at a time."

Rather than leave her home without any artificial limbs, she would stay in and found it very difficult to get on with her life.

Eventually, media campaigns helped her raise 30,000 to pay for state of the art equipment bought privately.

The hospital said it had done its best to meet Ms Smith's needs.

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29 Mar 00 | Health
NHS 'lets down' disabled
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