‘Through tragedy, we’re helping other people’ - Victoria Panton Bacon’s bid to help amputee children around the world 10 years after bus crash which killed her mother and left her sister and niece injured
- Credit: Archant
One moment, she was celebrating the happiest moment of her life when she welcomed her newborn son into the world. The next, she was dealing with the most heartbreaking tragedy which rocked her family.
But 10 years on from a bus crash which killed her mother and left both her sister and niece with serious, lasting injuries, Victoria Panton Bacon hopes the charity she co-founded in tribute to them has changed the lives of amputee children for the better.
And as she prepares to run the London Marathon in her mother's memory close to the anniversary of the accident, her goal is to continue to give amputees in the world's poorest countries the chance to walk.
Ms Panton Bacon's mother Elizabeth and sister Sarah were taking little Pollyanna Hope to visit her aunt in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
It was supposed to be the happiest of occasions after Mrs Panton Bacon, from Harleston, had given birth two days before.
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But tragedy struck when the trio were struck by a bus at Mortlake station at around 9.40am.
Elizabeth Hope died after the crash, while Pollyanna had to have her leg amputated below the knee.
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Sarah Hope was also left with injuries that she still suffers from today.
Unaware of what had happened while still in hospital, Ms Panton Bacon first sensed something was wrong when her visitors did not arrive as expected.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon – Ms Panton Bacon's husband – made the difficult decision that hospital was not the right place to break the news and instead chose to wait until they were at home.
But the fact Mr Bacon was not in Westminster for Parliamentary business he had been scheduled for made Ms Panton Bacon fear the worst.
She described hearing the news as 'totally shattering' and 'utterly and completely devastating'.
She added: 'I just remember having a sense of how on earth am I even going to cope.
'It was utterly shattering for Richard as well – he had to break the news to me.
'My strongest memory was standing with Rollo, looking at him and knowing he was going to get me through.
'I knew I couldn't give up and had to go on.'
Despite the sadness at her mother's death, Ms Panton Bacon described the relief at knowing her sister and niece were still alive.
But that moment changed the lives of everyone in the family forever, as they grasped a new reality of raising an amputee child.
By January of the following year, the whole family had moved to Harleston to be near Ms Panton Bacon so they could all support each other in their time of difficulty.
The process of personal injury claims was a long and arduous one, Ms Panton Bacon said, adding: 'An awful lot of work needs to be done to make it much kinder to people.'
The family also had to help Pollyanna manage her injuries – she today wears a prosthetic leg and, when not wearing that, sometimes rests her knee on a disability scooter.
However six years ago, Ms Panton Bacon and her sister decided to set up a charity in memory of their mother and inspired by Pollyanna – aptly named Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope.
Its goal is to raise funds to provide prosthetic legs for amputee children in poorer countries, who might not otherwise get the chance to walk again.
It has already helped scores of children in countries like Tanzania and Liberia and aims to expand its reach across the globe.
'Dealing with life when it throws things at you that you least expect is very, very hard,' she said.
'Mummy was 65 and a busy, energetic person. She was far too young to die and we felt we needed to do something to continue her life.
'My family have drawn a lot of comfort in knowing that through tragedy, we're helping other people.'