After 31 years of chronic pain, a partial leg amputation allows Georgia woman to become a runner

When Deanna Campbell came to OneFitness in Newnan, Georgia, as a recent amputee, she felt self-conscious about switching from her prosthetic leg to her new running blade.
But, Campbell says, her hesitation quickly disappeared once she climbed on the treadmill.

"When I first walked in the gym, I didn't know anything about it," she says. "I walk in a gym now, and I belong in a gym. I change my leg in the middle of a gym."

Because Campbell, who just turned 48, is running without pain for the first time since 1992, when, as a teenager, she was involved in a traumatic accident. 
"I snapped in half my left ankle and totally crushed my right ankle," she says.

Campbell endured several surgeries, to stabilize her right ankle, then realign it, then totally replace the ankle.

But, she says, nothing was helping.  

"So, I was in a lot of pain," she says.  "And, while I was honest about the pain that I was in, it affects your life, it affects your mood, and it affects the rest of your family."

So, last year, Campbell decided she had to do something.

"I was not healthy, and I got to a place where I was not leaving the house, and I wouldn't drive," she says.

She came to Emory University Hospital to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rishin Kadakia to talk about another surgery, this one to remove her painful right leg just below the knee.

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"I always try to be as honest as I can and say, 'Listen, this is a really hard situation, but we're going to do the best we can and give you the best options and help you make the right choice for yourself.'" Kadakia says. 

Making this kind of decision,  and choosing an elective amputation, he says, takes time.

"I mean, for Ms. Campbell, it was over 6 months before that decision was made, which, I think, is totally reasonable," Kadakia says.

Campbell and her husband Warren, who have a blended family of 5 kids, decided to go forward with the surgery in 2022.

It is a decision, she says, that paid off.

"My quality of life is 100% different than what it was before," Campbell says.

"It is quite surprising, and pleasantly surprising, to see how well she's done," Dr. Kadakia says.

After 31 years of living with pain, Campbell started thinking about becoming a runner.

"I saw on Instagram this company, and it was Levitate, and I reached out to them and said, 'What do I need to do to start running with you?'"

That is how Campbell learned she qualified for a grant that covered the $2,000 cost of a Levitate racing blade designed for amputees.

After a lot of practice with her new blade, Campbell recently ran her first road race with her husband, a one-miler.

"Halfway through. I'm crying, looking, looking at my husband, realizing that I'm running," she smiles.

And Deanna Campbell is not just running, she is running pain-free.

"It's a whole new experience for me, and I love every minute of it," she says.