Ex-Smoker Mum Had Both Legs Amputated - 10 Years After She Quit

A former smoker had to have both her legs amputated because of her 20-a-day habit – despite giving up 10 years ago.

Mum Victoria Marks, 41, smoked from the age of 13 but after she quit she then developed a rare form of thrombosis called Buerger's disease.

The condition slowly starved Victoria' limbs of blood, meaning both her legs had to be amputated - and her arms could be next.

Now she wants her photo to be put on cigarette packs to give others the incentive to give up – and to deter young people from starting.

Victoria, who lives in Liskeard, Cornwall, with husband Scott, 42, and youngest daughter Beth, 11, said: "There needs to be more done to inform people of the dangers of smoking - and not just the major diseases, but the rare and life-changing ones too.

"If anything, the Government should put pictures of real people like me on the side of cigarette packets if they really want the message about smoking to hit home.

"Young people would relate far more to stories like mine than they would to a picture of clogged up lungs."

Victoria was 26 when she first suffered pain in her legs and swelling in her ankles which led to her being diagnosed with Buerger's disease, which causes chronic inflammation of the blood vessels, which narrows the arteries and eventually damages and kills tissue in the limbs.

The cause is unknown but medics say the use of tobacco is a key factor and it normally only occurs in men aged over 45.

By May 2006, Victoria was in excruciating pain and unable to walk so doctors decided to amputate her lower left leg.

A week after the operation she developed an infection and doctors had to remove more of the limb above the knee.

After coming to terms with her illness and learning to walk with a prosthetic limb, Victoria started feeling similar pains in her right leg in December 2012.

Her doctor called her an ambulance and within hours a consultant had broken the news that the tissue was dead and she risked gangrene if the limb wasn't removed immediately.

Surgeons amputated her leg above the knee the same day.

Victoria said: "I'd never heard of the disease before and there wasn't much information about it online.

"It wasn't until a year later that I discovered that the condition affected smokers and the best thing to do would be to quit the habit.

"It was the push I needed to stop the addiction and I haven't touched a single cigarette since.

"But it was too late, the damage was done. I gave up smoking ten years ago but had my first amputation three years later.

"I'm always on tenterhooks waiting for the day when I have to have my arms amputated too. Every little pain I feel in my arms, I worry and panic."

She and her husband believe every single consequence of smoking should be listed on cigarette packets - not just the obvious illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer.

Victoria said: "I have no doubt that Buerger's disease was caused by smoking. Putting more people like me on the cover of the cigarette packets will raise awareness of the dangers of putting a cigarette in your mouth."