Paradoxically, the week that changed Lucy Townsend's life forever began with good news.
In November 2013, her chic gastropub, The Greyhound On The Test, in the small town of Stockbridge, Hampshire, was named Michelin pub of the year – a coveted award that put the company firmly on the nationwide foodie menu.
As she celebrates, she may have thought carefully about how good life was.
She was a former chef and one of the few women who had worked in the iconic restaurants of Marco Pierre White in London. She loved the beautiful scenery of the Test Valley and was happily engaged to her partner Alex Lewis and three-year-old son Sam. .
She worked hard, but it was – and still is – her passion. & # 39; I've always loved my job & # 39 ;, she says today. & # 39; When I first saw Sam, I stopped for a moment and realized that I absolutely had to go back. Work keeps me healthy. I have to work. & # 39;
Lucy Townsend, 45, explained how she continued to work at her gastropub in Stockbridge, after her partner Alex Lewis (pictured together) lost his limbs to gangrene
However, days after the Michelin announcement, Alex got sick.
What at first seemed like a cold, or in the worst case the flu, went quickly and terrifyingly into something very rare, but completely devastating – a form of gangrene caused by the usually harmless Streptococcus A bacterium – the same strain that recently killed 12 people in a Essex outbreak.
Strep A infections are generally dangerous only in the elderly, but Alex was only 33.
& # 39; It was a completely strange disease & # 39 ;, says Lucy. & # 39; At one point the doctors told me that there was no hope left and that I had to prepare for dying. & # 39;
Alex & # 39; survival came at the expense of his limbs. One arm and both legs were amputated as he fought the infection and, six months later, surgeons also removed the other arm.
It is crucial that he has retained his right elbow, which means that he can now wear and use a harmless prosthetic arm.
& # 39; The line A was still in him and went toward his heart & # 39 ;, says Lucy. & # 39; He had to decide if he would die – it was that simple.
& # 39; But that elbow makes the difference between a little independence and none at all. He does everything with that arm. Without it our lives would be completely different. & # 39;
In total, Alex underwent 250 hours of surgery and had more than 35 skin transplants, including a large skin transplant from his shoulder to his lips and chin, where the infection was eaten away.
For Lucy, now 45 years old, life is split up before and after. Yet, far from leaning towards the bleak dishonesty of what happened, she has always decided to remain as positive as possible.
Lucy (photo) says since Alex & # 39; disease, they have had the best time of their lives and he has a & # 39; amazing drive and purpose to life
& # 39; Since it happened, we have had the best time of our lives. People don't believe me when I say that, but I'm very clear about it.
& # 39; Alex and I are very different people. He was always the most relaxed guy, everyone's partner, while I was always willing to go and tell everything about work.
& # 39; I am not sure if we would have survived as a long-term couple if this had not happened. & # 39;
She continues: & # 39; And now, my God, Alex has discovered an amazing drive and purpose in life. He travels all over the world, he has become a speaker, he has so many projects, he does so many things.
& # 39; He does the craziest things in his life and that's the way we both want it, because time is so short and you should have as much fun as possible. & # 39; In the following six years, Alex has become a skilled kayaker, paddling hundreds of miles along the Orange River in South Africa and through the freezing water on Greenland.
He climbed one of the highest mountains in Africa with the help of an off-road buggy specially built for him by engineers from the University of Southampton and raised funds for the construction of a wheelchair factory in Ethiopia.
It is an extraordinary attitude and one that few can sustain.
Lucy (pictured with toddler Sam and Alex for his illness) admits that sometimes she would laugh at & # 39; her heart & # 39; after a visit to Alex at the Salisbury hospital
But for all the inspiring speaking and discovering, there is no doubt that both Alex and Lucy have suffered enormously.
& # 39; Alex often hurt and sometimes I came back from the hospital and sobbed my heart & # 39 ;, says Lucy.
& # 39; A lot has happened, although rarely for someone. I don't tend to do that.
& # 39; But Alex's hospital room was generally not a sad place. Our friends were great and although it was horrible and much of that time is a haze, we also laughed a lot. There was never a flicker of Alex's self-pity. Nothing and no one is to blame for what happened and once you accept that, you can only try to make the best of it. & # 39;
You could have expected Lucy's business ideas in the hospital room to be neglected alongside life and death – but that's not what happened. Work was her lifeline.
& # 39; Work was very much my space and a safe place for me to be inside. I had a team of people around me with whom I had worked for more than ten years in different cafes and kitchens, and it felt like this terrible thing was happening, not just for me. & # 39;
Lucy (pictured with Sam) would do school runs, visit Alex at the hospital, go to work and then return to the hospital
Lucy just kept going. & # 39; I would run the school, go to the Salisbury hospital to see Alex and then go to work. The nurses would let me sneak into the ward again around 11 p.m. after work.
& # 39; I did that for 18 months, and there was only one point when I told my business partner: & # 39; Look, it affects the company, you have to take it away from me. & # 39; But of course he didn't.
& # 39; People in the industry have really gathered around. A few offered to send me a temporary manager for the pub, but in the end I didn't want that either. I had to be there to do it. & # 39;
Remarkably, she has expanded her business interests by adding an outdoor catering company for events, Wilds, and running a large hotel in Stockbridge, the Grosvenor, which she is renovating and expanding.
& # 39; My life is all about builders & # 39 ;, she laughs. & # 39; It is the largest hotel in the area and has not been visited for 40 years. I now work six days a week. It was seven years old – but since Alex's disease I have promised him that I will only do six. He knew on the first day, before the illness, that I was working that way, and he has always really supported it.
Alex (photo) has since climbed one of the highest mountains in Africa with the help of an off-road buggy and has raised money to build a wheelchair factory in Ethiopia
& # 39; I make it a priority to be there for Sam's things, such as school games or sports days. Because it's my business, I can stop and go to that, and so any parent who works for me can. & # 39;
Alex has a caretaker who helps him get Sam out of school and cook. & # 39; I know some women would give up everything to do all that for their husbands, & # 39; says Lucy, & # 39; but I made a conscious decision at the start that I would never have Alex & # 39; become a nurse. I was his partner and the person he would spend the rest of his life with. Giving up the company was not an option.
& # 39; I told him early that he had three years. I would support him for that time and then he would have to contribute to the family or do something that would make us proud. He definitely has. & # 39;
In addition to his travels, Alex has designed and adapted the family home to make it work for him & # 39; without looking like a hospital & # 39 ;. & # 39; It is something he would like to do for others & # 39 ;, says Lucy. & # 39; Everyone's disability is different, and the design should reflect that. The places where they live do not have to be care homes. & # 39;
Meanwhile, Sam, now eight, had to be a fairly independent little boy & # 39; to become.
& # 39; That's exactly how it was for him. He is incredibly friendly and very protective against Alex.
& # 39; If he sees people staring into stores, he will come closer or talk to his father and tell people what happened.
Lucy (pictured with Sam and Alex) who came to Alex 12 years ago, says he is still making her smile and is the nicest man she knows
& # 39; They have an incredibly strong bond. When I went back to work after working with Sam, Alex stepped in and stayed at his home for 18 months – and thank God I am sure Sam kept Sam alive. He wanted to be with Sam so much that he refused to let go. & # 39;
There is one question that everyone meets who asks Lucy; a question that is often asked with a touch of disbelief or even pity, which they both hate.
& # 39; They all ask me how I do it, & # 39; she sighs. & # 39; Well, I have the best team and the best support and the best people around me. I didn't have to do it this way. I have many choices.
& # 39; After Alex's disease, friends made it clear to me that I didn't have to stay with him, that it wasn't what I signed up for and that nobody would judge me.
& # 39; And he was happy that people told me that, because I had made it very clear that it was never the case that I was not with him.
& # 39; I said when I was with him 12 years ago that I wanted someone who & # 39; I could make me a cup of tea in the morning and make me smile every day.
& # 39; Well, he still makes me laugh. He is still the friendliest, funniest man I know. That's how I do it. & # 39;
Would you be our best entrepreneur of the year for 2019?
Did you start a business while your mother was? Then enter our Daily Mail / NatWest Everywoman Aphrodite Award for mumpreneurs.
You must be based in the UK or have your main activities and you have completely rebuilt your own business while raising a child or children 12 years of age or younger.
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