A FORMER member of the British Army gripped with agonising pain in her foot opted to have her lower leg amputated, despite some experts advising against it.

Cornelia Oosthuizen lived in agony for nearly five years, taking up to 12 pills a day to stave off the crippling pain.

“It’s chronic, it’s non-stop,” she said in a BBC West documentary which aired on Monday night. “A really, really deep burning pain inside the inner bit of my right foot.”

Cornelia was competing in the army’s annual tennis competition when she hurt her foot. Putting it down to a sprain, she assumed it would get better in a few weeks.

But that turned out to be far from the truth.

The foot failed to recover, and she was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a condition thought to be caused by nerves telling the brain a part of the body hurts, even if it is no longer injured.

Eventually the pain meant she had to leave the army, and despite concerns from the medical community, the 39-year-old decided to look at amputation – after hearing it had worked for others.

Professor Candy McCabe, a pain expert, expressed concern, saying that after some respite following an amputation, the pain often returns.

Speaking in the documentary, she said: “Unfortunately in my experience, amputation commonly makes the problem worse. What happens is the CRPS and all the pain associated with it moves into the remaining part of the limb. The patient often experiences quite severe phantom sensations.”

Before surgery Cornelia met Paralympian gold medallist Rachel Morris, who had both of her legs amputated because of CRPS.

Rachel told Cornelia in the documentary: “To be honest with you, I really worry about you having it done – I have massive concerns.It has put me in a worse position than I was, because I have the CRPS pain – plus the nerve pain of the phantom, plus the other nerve pain.”

Despite admitting that she had always dreamed of being a top level athlete, Cornelia said her new goal of becoming a Paralympian was not affecting her choice to go ahead with the amputation.

Although she admitted she could “understand the temptation” for those wanting to compete at the highest level, she said it “went against the grain, arguably, of what the spirit of the Paralympics and Olympics is about”.

Videoing herself from her hospital bed following the amputation, Cornelia called the pain “excruciating”.

Through tears, she added: “It’s ten to one in the morning and I could really do with a few prayers because I’m in a lot of pain.”

She spent 15 days recovering in hospital before returning to her home near Salisbury, where she says the pain, so far, has improved.

BBC Inside Out West aired on Monday and is available on iPlayer.