Why I’m all smiles af­ter hol­i­day hell

TERRIFYING FLESH-EAT­ING DISEASE LEFT GRAD­U­ATE HOURS FROM DEATH

Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By CHAR­LOTTE DOB­SON char­lotte.dob­[email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @dob­sonMEN

IT was the hol­i­day of a life­time that turned into a night­mare, and it all started with a mos­quito bite.

Donna Cox, 22, flew to south-east Asia to cel­e­brate the end of her masters de­gree and em­bark on an ad­ven­ture.

Donna, from War­dle, Rochdale, had all of the nec­es­sary vaccinatio­ns and booked a one-way ticket to Viet­nam in Septem­ber.

“I was hav­ing the time of my life,” Donna said. “I met some ab­so­lutely amaz­ing peo­ple. I never ex­pected it all to end as quickly as it did.”

Donna’s or­deal started when she no­ticed a painful mos­quito bite on her right leg when she was in Cam­bo­dia.

“There was a lump around the bite on my shin. It just didn’t seem right.

“I’d been bit­ten loads when I was over there. The mos­qui­tos seemed to love me. But the red­ness and the pain around this one bite started to spread up and down my leg.”

Donna went to a phar­ma­cist to get an­tibi­otic cream on the ad­vice of a hos­tel man­ager, but a day later the swelling re­turned and it be­came too painful for her to put weight on her right foot.

“I re­mem­ber say­ing to some of the girls in the room ‘Guys, I’m not be­ing dra­matic but I think I’m go­ing to die or lose my leg.’ I was only jok­ing but it al­most ended up com­ing true.”

With cash run­ning low, Donna de­cided to book a flight back to the UK in Oc­to­ber. It was a painful flight back and when she made it to Rochdale the bite only got worse.

Donna ended up in Rochdale In­fir­mary, where an x-ray re­vealed a ‘col­lec­tion’ un­der her leg.

Doc­tors con­sulted with the North

Manch­ester In­fec­tious Dis­eases team and the next day Donna was rushed to the Royal Old­ham Hospi­tal where she was di­ag­nosed with a flesh-eat­ing in­fec­tion called necro­tis­ing fasci­itis. The rare bac­te­rial in­fec­tion spreads rapidly and can be fa­tal.

Donna be­gan to fall un­con­scious and de­vel­oped sep­sis. Her body was start­ing to shut down.

The fol­low­ing four days were a blur. She had three op­er­a­tions on her leg and was di­ag­nosed with com­part­ment syn­drome. Donna signed a form con­sent­ing for her leg to be am­pu­tated should her con­di­tion worsen. She had an­other limb-sav­ing pro­ce­dure to ease the pres­sure build­ing in her right leg. “The bone in my leg had soft­ened and the necro­tis­ing fasci­itis was eat­ing my leg,” she said. “It was only be­cause I was young and strong that I sur­vived.” Medics left Donna’s wounds open to ease the pres­sure in her lower leg, be­fore clos­ing it with 90 sta­ples.

At one stage she wore an eye-mask so she couldn’t see her leg. Doc­tors told her if she had gone to hospi­tal four hours later she would have died. “I was in hospi­tal for five weeks in to­tal,” Donna said. “The con­sul­tants and all the staff were ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. But I had some very dark mo­ments when I was there and I felt re­ally iso­lated at times.

“So many peo­ple go trav­el­ling and there are times where I feel an­gry that this hap­pened to me. I’m still strug­gling to process what hap­pened be­cause so much of it is a blur.”

Donna has lost all sensation in her lower right leg and is now learn­ing how to walk again.

Her leg is cov­ered in scars and she has foot drop. But she is de­ter­mined to re­gain her strength and man­aged to walk across the stage at her grad­u­a­tion at Edge Hill Univer­sity.

“It’s had such a dra­matic im­pact on my life. I used to love be­ing ac­tive and would go to the gym ev­ery day. Now I strug­gle to walk to the bath­room.

“All of my in­de­pen­dence has been stripped away from me and that’s been re­ally hard. There are so many things you take for granted. I can’t bend my toes in my right foot any more and that’s re­ally dif­fi­cult.

“It’s only thanks to my amaz­ing friends, fam­ily and ev­ery­one at the hospi­tal that I’ve got through this.

“That’s why walk­ing at my grad­u­a­tion was such a mas­sive mo­ment for me.

This whole ex­pe­ri­ence has put ev­ery­thing into per­spec­tive.

“If my story en­cour­ages peo­ple not to ig­nore any bites or pains and po­ten­tially saves their life, it will make what hap­pened that lit­tle bit easier for me to ac­cept.”

I re­mem­ber say­ing ‘Guys, I’m not be­ing dra­matic but I think I’m go­ing to die or lose my leg’

Donna Cox

The bite on Donna’s leg Donna Cox at her grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony last month and, in­set, a mos­quito

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