'I started a shoe exchange for amputees like me who only have one foot'

A woman who had her right foot amputated has set up a group so thousands of other amputees can swap the odd shoes they don’t need.

Jo O’Callaghan came up with the idea after realising she had a wardrobe filled with right shoes and boots that were not of any use to her.

The 49-year-old lives with complex regional pain syndrome and allodynia (nerve pain) – which meant, for years, wearing a shoe on her right foot was agony.

Jo first noticed a problem when she woke up with a numbness down her right side in 2001, when her son George, now 22, was just six months old.

This pain progressed and moved all around her body, causing her right hand to ball up into an unmovable fist.

It took 10 years for Jo to get the diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Jo, from Tenterden, Kent, said: ‘It was a relief to get a name for it.

‘People thought I was making it up.’

But the pain in her right foot got worse and caused it to stick out at a right angle. She soon had to use crutches to walk and a wheelchair to get around.

Eventually, Jo made the tough decision to have her right foot amputated, in November 2019.

‘I hated my foot,’ Jo added.

‘I thought about amputation for a while but my husband, Nick, 60, wasn’t sure.

‘But while we were on holiday over Christmas in 2018, he told me to do it when he could see just how much pain I was in.

‘The pain was unbearable and it as like a lump of meat.

‘Of course, there was some adjustment to having no right foot, but I didn’t have any shock that it wasn’t there.’

While Jo still experiences pain, her quality of life has now considerably improved. 

However, following the operation, the 49-year-old noticed she was left with right shoes that she didn’t need – and realised other amptutees must experience the same problem.

That’s when she launched a Facebook group called Jo’s Odd Shoes – to rehome her spare shoes.

Now it’s grown to a network of 3,500 people who only wear one shoe, or odd shoes, due to illness of amputation.

Users post photos of unwanted shoes, which are then snapped up or swapped with others who have the opposite remaining foot.

More than 3,500 swaps have taken place in the last year.

Jo said: ‘Everyone deserves to wear a shoe. It’s part of an outfit and we feel naked without it.

‘I remember looking at this pile of odd shoes and thought it was so silly that I had them all.

‘I couldn’t exactly take them to a charity shop as they weren’t a pair. So, I set up the page and it took off.

‘There’s a man in the group who hasn’t worn a shoe in years because he didn’t see the point in buying a pair.

‘Now he gets loads of odd ones off us and his grandchildren call him trendy.

‘Doing this gives me something to get up for every day – even when I’m in pain.’

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