Quadruple amputee. Campaigner. Inspiration.
Kim Smith from Milton Keynes was on holiday in Spain with her husband Steve when she started to feel unwell. Over the course of a few days, what began as a suspected kidney infection quickly turned into a diagnosis of sepsis and Kim was left fighting for her life.
After being in a coma for 9 weeks, Kim woke up and was greeted with the news that she needed to have all four limbs amputated if she were to survive. Determined to fight on, Kim told the doctors to do whatever was necessary.
Since then, Kim has been adapting to life as a quadruple amputee, with the support of her loving family. She has become an active campaigner, raising awareness for sepsis and its symptoms, her motto being: ‘Sepsis took me on, but I won!’.
We spoke to Kim, to find out more.
A new mission in life
The NHS saved my life and I will forever be grateful.
When I heard what the doctors needed to do, it was a simple choice as I wanted to live! I’m a fighter and I wasn’t just going to give up. Day-to-day life is a challenge now but I’m learning to do things differently and my family have been absolutely amazing - they’re what keeps me going.
I’d never heard of sepsis before I had it, despite it being one of the biggest killers in the world - killing more people than cancer. With the speed at which it develops, it’s vital people know the signs to look out for, which is why I’ve become an ambassador for The Sepsis Trust. I’m raising awareness for the dangers of sepsis, so no-one else has to go through what I’ve been through, or to lose their life to it.
As well as talking about my experiences and the symptoms of sepsis on social media (Kim’s Chance), I’ve been working with the nurses at MK hospital and other emergency services teams and have also visited several schools, which I really enjoy.
What prosthetics do you use?
I have an NHS prosthetic arm but I find it a bit too heavy to wear. I also have a bionic arm, which certainly looks the part and is lighter, but I find I can’t do that much with.
It’s funny, you think when you first lose an arm that what you really need is a new one - a prosthetic that looks and works like a replacement hand. But actually, you need something that works! It’s the function and ability to remain independent that’s the most important thing.
I have a friend who does amazing things with makeup using a hook! I would never have considered that in the beginning. Whatever aids you use need to work and to be useful and that’s what I’ve found with Koalaa.
How did you first come across Koalaa?
I follow Alex Lewis on social media, who is another quadruple amputee, and I saw some posts he shared about a new kind of soft prosthetic. It sounded great and I wanted to try one, so I decided to sign up to be a trialist.
I didn’t know what to expect and part of me thought it’s probably just another gadget that won’t work that well, but I was blown away!
What was your first impression?
The sleeve is so light and comfortable, you don’t even know you’ve got it on and it’s so useful – I wouldn’t be without it now!
I have the knife attachment for cutting; the rotation tool, which can hold things like pens, cutlery and wooden spoons; and the gripper tool which can hold general objects, such as cups, glasses and fruit.
What do you use your prosthetic for?
I continue to be amazed by how much I can do with my Koalaa sleeve! It has literally changed my life. It’s absolutely brilliant and I use it so much!! For starters, I can hold a cup of tea (in a proper cup!), cut up my own food, fill in forms and write birthday cards. My family think it’s great too. My mum filled up when we went out for Christmas dinner and she saw me cut up my own dinner up. She was so impressed.
Best thing about you Koalaa prosthetic?
The best thing is that it has given me my independence back. I can cut up my own food and not feel like I’m a baby and having to be fed. I can also fill in forms and drink from a normal cup myself. These are small things but they’re life changing for me.
To anyone interested in getting one I would say 'go for it'. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tried.