There are a lot of cases wherein an (alleged) simple insect bite turned into nightmare. Such is the similar case of a 31-year-old woman who almost lost her life when a flesh-eating bacteria consumed a large part of her breast. Now she is warning everyone to watch for the symptoms.
At first, Lucy Secular, 31, from Shinfield Skylark Way, thought she had just scratched her left breast but a day later, she was rushed to the hospital fighting for her life.
Lucy, a mother of one described the pain as “a thousand times worse than childbirth. It felt like I was being eaten alive from the inside out.”
On August 12 last year, Lucy noticed a tiny 2mm scratch on her breast, what she didn’t know is, it would be the beginning of her life-threatening medical ordeal.
She said, “It was a little sore, like a spot, but I thought nothing of it,” not realizing that the killer superbug necrotizing fasciitis had already entered her body through the scratch. So that day, Lucy carry on her daily life, which includes going for a job interview and bonding time with her five-year-old son Alfie at McDonalds.
But the next morning, Lucy woke up to Alfie jumping in her bed. She felt lightheaded and rushed to the toilet to throw up, according to Get Reading.
Lucy thought, it might be a case bad case of food poisoning, although she was suffering pain in her left breast, and then she started to have cold and hot sweats with a boiling temperature.
By 9pm the pain worsens, she recalls looking down and seeing an ulcer developing on top of her breast.
“The bug was in full attack mode now within my bloodstream attacking my organs,” she explained. “As I lay in bed I drifted in and out of consciousness, and I remember coming round at 9pm that evening paralyzed from the excruciating pain.”
She thought she was going to die, she picked up the phone beside her bed and called her mother, Ann. By this time, her left breast doubled its normal size and was pitch black.
Her mom immediately called 999, and when her Ann saw her, she immediately thought her daughter had septicaemia.
“The ambulance man took my blood pressure with shock in his eyes as it was so dangerously low – my body was in toxic shock – and because of the look of my breast. His words were ‘I haven’t got a clue what’s happening to you but we need to get you to Royal Berkshire Hospital now.”
“I was very fortunate to have the doctor I did, as unfortunately a patient of his had passed the previous November from the disease. He knew straight away what he was dealing with.”
Lucy was then rushed into the operating room.
“I was told that I was lucky I’d called my mum when I had as if I hadn’t I would have been dead by the morning,” she explained.
The surgeon told Lucy’s mom that she would be put to induce coma to keep her organs from shutting down as well as to recover. But Lucy wakes up in intensive care later that evening defying coma with wires pumping loads of antibiotics and pain relief into her body.
The next morning she was returned to the O.R. to remove more tissue and make sure all the disease had gone. Surgeons managed to save her nipple but she had lost about 20 percent of breast tissue. Two days later she was transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for two further operations, which includes skin grafting from her thigh.
On August 29, she finally returned home and Lucy needs to go back to hospital every two days for dressing changes.
The medical staffs described her survival as a “miracle”.
“It was hard being in hospital, [as] my dad couldn’t visit due to his immune system being low from [cancer] treatment, and I could only speak to Alfie on the phone.
The day I came home and was able to see Alfie was a very emotional, happy day, even though I was still very poorly.”
Unfortunately, the drama in her family wasn’t over yet.
Lucy’s 63 year-old father, Alan, is undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy for stage three bowel cancer, and was waiting to hear if the treatment had been successful or not.
“Dad and mum went to see the doctor to find out the results and to their amazement, mum recognized dad’s doctor,” said Lucy. “It was the doctor who diagnosed me in re-sus and saved my life. My dad was in floods of tears shaking his hand and thanking him for saving his daughter,” she added.
Thankfully, Mr Secular’s treatment had worked and he was able to go-ahead with a life-saving operation. And later on, he was given the all clear.
Lucy said: “My dad’s operation was a success and we were able to have a very special Christmas all together.”
Meanwhile, Lucy had her first reconstruction operation in February, and had two more to go.
She said, “I feel very fortunate to survive necrotizing fasciitis but very sad that someone had to pass for me to live. This is why I wish to raise awareness and tell my story.
“The fatality rate is as high as 75 percent. I was healthy and it shows it can happen to anyone.
“I had all the signs – sickness, dehydration, low blood pressure, high temperature, hot and cold sweats, swollen and hot area on body and unproportioned pain.
“Awareness needs to be raised so if it happens, to stop it in its tracks asap and save another life and not to lose one. I am walking proof it can be beaten and I’m determined to beat the aftermath of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] that it brings with it.
“I was a confident woman before and if I don’t do this I feel I will be letting myself down as well as the person who lost their life, so I’m telling my story and showing my scars to raise as much awareness as I can.”
According to studies, necrotizing fasciitis or also known as flesh-eating disease, flesh-eating bacteria or flesh-eating bacteria syndrome is a rare infection of the deeper layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues, easily spreading across the fascial plane within the subcutaneous tissue. Also the “Flesh-eating bacteria” is a misnomer (given a wrong name for its true nature), which means the bacteria does not “eat” the tissue but they destroy it by releasing toxin (virulence factors), which include streptococcal pyogenic exotoxins.
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