Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - TYLER MEARS Re­porter [email protected]­line.co.uk

T HESE hor­rific scars make it look like dad Nathan Davies was bit­ten by a shark.

But in re­al­ity, the 33-yearold es­tate agent was patched up by sur­geons af­ter com­ing into con­tact with com­mon hogweed.

The fa­ther, from Am­man­ford, was hos­pi­talised af­ter blis­ters caused by the weed be­came se­verely in­fected.

He suf­fered hor­ren­dous in­juries and spent four weeks in hospi­tal, un­der­go­ing five painful op­er­a­tions.

Doc­tors told Nathan he risked los­ing the mus­cle from his calf, as the in­fec­tion had started to spread.

“It’s the clos­est any­body could have come to los­ing their leg with­out ac­tu­ally los­ing it,” Nathan said. “If the in­fec­tion had reached my calf, the doc­tors would have been look­ing at tak­ing a part of the mus­cle away.”

Nathan’s or­deal started when he was gar­den­ing with his fa­ther in May – when tem­per­a­tures soared to the high twen­ties across Wales. Af­ter com­ing into con­tact with com­mon hogweed, Nathan – who was wear­ing shorts at the time – no­ticed blis­ters start­ing to ap­pear on his leg.

Less than a week later, he col­lapsed in agony and was im­me­di­ately rushed to A&E in Llanelli.

Nathan spent around four weeks in hospi­tal, un­der­go­ing a num­ber of op­er­a­tions to open his leg from the knee cap to the an­kle bone.

His in­juries were also fur­ther com­pli­cated by sub­cu­ta­neous em­phy­sema – when gas or air be­comes trapped un­der a cut or wound.

“All the op­er­a­tions were the same – open­ing up the wound and leav­ing it open to clean it,” Nathan said.

“One of the worst things was that they kept can­celling my op­er­a­tions – mean­ing I couldn’t see my lit­tle boy.

“I’d be pre­pared for an op – go nil by mouth for 24 hours, only for it to be can­celled at the fi­nal hour be­cause they had run out of time.

“I lost around a stone and a half in weight be­cause of it.”

Due to the sever­ity of his in­jury, Nathan was left un­able to walk un­aided and had to rely heav­ily on the use of crutches for sev­eral months fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent.

But one of the most painful parts of the whole or­deal, ac­cord­ing to Nathan, was hav­ing the stitches in his leg re­moved – which he says were as thick as “ten­nis racket strings”.

“It was ab­so­lutely hor­ren­dous hav­ing them taken out. I’d never seen stitches so thick in my life.

“I didn’t have any anaes­thetic and the nurse had to use tweez­ers to pull them out one by one – there were 24 of them. It was hor­rific.”

An­other big strug­gle for Nathan was not be­ing able to care for his young son.

“It was tough. Get­ting home af­ter the hospi­tal was the worst part – I couldn’t do any­thing for my­self.

“I couldn’t even shower my­self, let alone help to shower the baby or do all the stuff I loved do­ing with him.

“My fam­ily helped me and they were bril­liant,” Nathan said.

“They would come up and cook for me and take care of the baby.

“They helped get me back up on my feet, un­til I could walk by my­self.”

Nathan says he’s “com­pletely re­cov­ered” from his or­deal now, but says his legs still get sore and he has to be care­ful with some phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

He’s also been left with a huge scar on his leg – which he says looks al­most like a “shark bite”.

“Emo­tion­ally, I’m quite a tough per­son – I’ve had a lot to deal with in my life.

“But it has stopped me from do­ing any­thing phys­i­cal.

“I was a proper gym-goer be­fore and played a lot of rugby and I wanted to be able to go back to that – but I can’t. If I stretch my leg too much, for ex­am­ple in the car, I can feel it pulling.

“So even though I’m well now, I can’t do any sport or phys­i­cal con­tact – it’s too much.

“But ev­ery­thing is get­ting back to nor­mal – I’ve learnt how to walk again and I can kick a foot­ball with my son.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing so much more. It was hor­ri­ble feel­ing like half a per­son.

“My mind wanted to be able to do ev­ery­thing but my body just couldn’t – all be­cause of a plant.”

Ear­lier this year, Nathan wanted to tell his story in an at­tempt to warn oth­ers about the dan­gers of the plant, which can be found along foot­paths and river­banks in most of the UK.

His story was high­lighted by Car­wyn Templeton, who works for South Wales Knotweed Re­moval.

And Nathan says he’s been con­tacted by, and sub­se­quently helped, a num­ber of peo­ple and busi­nesses since his story went on­line.

“I wanted to raise aware­ness. I don’t want adults to go through what I went through, let alone any kids.”

Com­mon hogweed be­longs to the same fam­ily as cow pars­ley and gi­ant hogweed – cur­rently dubbed “the most dan­ger­ous plant in Bri­tain”.

The plant is com­mon in herba­ceous places, along roads, in hedges, mead­ows and woods, es­pe­cially in moun­tain ar­eas. It also prefers moist, ni­tro­gen-rich soils.

Its sap con­tains chem­i­cals which can re­act with light when in con­tact with hu­man skin and can cause blis­ter­ing.

But be sure not to mis­take com­mon hogweed for its big brother gi­ant hogweed. Gi­ant hogweed can grow up to five me­tres tall, has a thick green stem and white flow­ers clus­tered in an um­brella-shaped head that is up to 80cm in di­am­e­ter.

But the leaves of com­mon hogweed are gen­er­ally smaller, softer, less shiny, and more rounded, but you will find ex­am­ples with very ser­rated leaves too.

“Few are aware the plant has a toxic sap, which when it comes in con­tact with bare skin, and is ex­posed to sun­light, can cause se­vere blis­ter­ing and red­den­ing,” Car­wyn said.

“The sim­ple rem­edy is to wear suit­able cloth­ing such as trousers and long sleeve tops.

“Com­mon hogweed has a big­ger, nas­tier brother, namely gi­ant hogweed which for­tu­nately, is rare through­out Wales.

“Nonethe­less, com­mon hogweed grows in abun­dance just about any­where.”

Nathan Davies and, above and right, his in­jury caused by hogweed

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