A former astrophysicist who lost a leg after she was hit by a van in a crash has inspired a dedicated support group for amputees across the region.

NE Amputee has been set up to provide specialist support and advice to those who have lost limbs and their families.

Dr Alison Broadbent had her right leg amputated above the knee after she was knocked down in Acacia Road, Bishop Auckland.

During her recovery Alison, 58, found there was a lack of peer support for amputees in the North East.The Northern Echo:

Alongside expert serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who secured her an undisclosed settlement to fund the specialist lifetime therapy and support she requires because of her injuries, Alison has set up the group which held its first meeting last month at the Metro Centre.

As well as Alison and Irwin Mitchell, others supporting NE Amputee include case manager Abbie Udall, Rachel Lees and Gemma Stoddart, a physiotherapist and occupational therapist respectively at Neural Pathways; and expert prosthetist Colette Shaw, at Steps Prosthetics.

The group allows amputees to access specialist support tailored to their specific needs.The Northern Echo:

Laura Mcilduff, an expert serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented Alison and helped set up the support group, said: “Through our work we often see the impact losing a limb can have on clients but also how with access to specialist support and rehabilitation they can regain more of their independence.

“By bringing together professionals across a range of disciplines we can offer specialist support specifically designed to meet the needs of members.

“The first meeting was really positive and showed that there was a real appetite for a group like this. We’re now planning future meetings and events and plan on having these at the Community Hub in the Metro Centre.The Northern Echo:

“Alison continues to be a real inspiration and her selflessness to now help others facing similar issues as to what she did is amazing.

"We’re proud to support the communities in which we operate and helping launch NE Amputee alongside Alison felt a natural extension that that. The group is open to anyone affected by amputation and everyone will be warmly welcomed.”

Alison, of Bishop Auckland, was a former astrophysicist before becoming a landscape gardener.

Following the collision in November 2018, doctors ruled there was little option other than to amputate her right leg just below the hip. She also underwent several other operations including skin grafts and spent two months in hospital.The Northern Echo:

While police decided not to charge the driver, Alison’s legal team at Irwin Mitchell reached an agreement on liability with the van driver’s insurers.

As well as paying for her care needs, the settlement also meant Alison could carry out specialist adaptations to her home and purchase various aids and equipment, including a custom-made computerised prosthetic leg, allowing Alison to walk on two feet, stand up or sit down.

Since then Alison has travelled to the Ritz for afternoon tea, surfed in the North Sea and even travelled to Mauritius.The Northern Echo:

She said: “Coming to terms with the collision and what it meant for my life going forward was difficult and there were many emotional times.

“However, in a strange way it always felt that I was one of the more fortunate ones. I knew I was blessed to have such a support network around me who made the difference to my recovery and that others going through the trauma of amputation were likely to be facing an uncertain future alone.

“Once I got to the position in my recovery that I could help others I always wanted to, and that’s where the idea of NE Amputee came from. The one thing I did miss was being able to talk to others going through the same uncertainty and challenges I was and being able to support one another.

“While it’s not always easy facing up to a new life and challenges I’ve always tried to be positive and hope to pass that on to others.The Northern Echo: Dr Alison Broadbent of Bishop Auckland

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“I’d hope others who find themselves in a similar situation to what I did don’t feel they have to go through it by themselves as there’s support out there which makes such a difference.”

The next meeting of NE Amputee is from 1pm-3pm on Friday, 7 June, 2024, at the Metro Centre Community Hub, Upper Green Mall, Metro Centre NE11 9YG. Disabled parking and access are available.

You can follow the NE Amputee on X @neAmputeeGroup and via Facebook (North East Amputee Support Group).