Alex Donaldson from Prescott underwent multiple surgeries and lost the use of her right arm after suffering from necrotising fasciitis, dubbed the ‘flesh-eating’ disease
A mum who scraped her arm on a wall while on holiday almost died days later after contracting a life-threatening bacterial disease that ‘eats’ the flesh.
Alex Donaldson was visiting her dad in Spain during November last year when she met up with a few friends before travelling home. However, as she gave them a hug she scratched herself slightly on a wall – but thought nothing of it.
After flying home the next day, though, she noticed her arm had began to swell and soon became “hot and painful”. The concerned 46-year-old from Prescot, Merseyside visited A&E and was told she had an infection before being sent home with antibiotics.
The hairdresser’s condition rapidly deteriorated and by the Wednesday, as she was getting ready for bed, she saw the redness across her arm had spread. She said: “I went straight back to hospital but I became delirious, it was so rapid. They did swabs and within 30 minutes they told me I was gravely ill. A scan showed I had necrotizing fasciitis.”
Necrotizing fasciitis is a ‘flesh eating disease’ believed to arise from bacteria like Strep A. Before jetting off to Spain, Alex said she had suffered a chest infection but believed it was clearing up with antibiotics.
She added: “I was rushed to theatre, they said waiting for the staff changeover would be too late, every second counts.” Alex underwent a further four surgeries to remove portions of tissue that were infected in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. At one point she was put on life support as her body fought the infection, and her family were called to say their goodbyes.
She continued to tell Liverpool Echo: “Only 30% of people survive, it’s so rapid, it’s a silent killer. But it’s not as rare as people think. You get more fatalities than survivors because it’s so deadly. These little tiny cuts can be so deadly. I was enjoying myself and two days later was fighting for my life.
“I’d had a chest infection but thought it was clearing then I got a scratch but Strep A had set in and it went from there. I want people to be aware and not to leave any cuts or grazes or dental illnesses. If you see any type of redness, get it checked.
“I’d have gone to bed that Wednesday and wouldn’t have survived. If I hadn’t looked at my arm I wouldn’t have woke up. You may just think it’s a little scratch but keep an eye on it. I could have been gone in the blink of an eye.”
Alex, who has lost the use of her right arm, is now working on behalf of a charity, the Lee Spark NF Foundation, to help raise awareness of the silent killer. The website reads: “Bacteria spreads very rapidly in the tissues below the skin and infection progresses at inches per hour. The patient rapidly becomes unwell with flu-like symptoms, with possible vomiting and diarrhoea.
“If not treated very quickly the skin over the affected area becomes dusky and purple, blisters may form and the skin dies. By this stage the infection has penetrated into the underlying tissues and the patient often develops toxic shock syndrome with collapse, low blood pressure and failure of the liver, kidneys and other vital organs.”
Early symptoms can include a minor trauma such as a skin opening before pain develops and gradually gets worse. Flu like symptoms can then occur such as confusion and dizziness as well as an increased thirst. According to the NHS, later symptoms can include being sick, diarrhoea, confusion as well as black, purple or grey blotches and blisters on the skin, which may be less obvious on black or brown skin.