Woman loses ‘half her bum cheek’ to flesh-eating infection – symptoms to spot

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After the flesh eating infection, known as necrotising fasciitis, was diagnosed Lesley was returned to theatre and had a large portion of her left buttock removed.

Speaking about the experience Lesley said: “I was told by the nurse not to Google it, but of course that makes you want to, I realised how lucky I had been.”

Necrotising fasciitis is a highly dangerous infection with a death rate around 30 to 50 percent according to the Lee Sparks Foundation.

Survivors of the infection aften need amputation when large areas of their tissue has been described.

Describing the infection, Lesley said: “It is not common, and that is why people haven’t heard about it as much as they should. People have had chunks of their legs removed, or even had limbs amputated because of this infection.

“I was still on morphine from the first operation so I didn’t feel the pain of the infection as much but it is meant to be really, really painful.”

While rare, the infection has a dedicated page on the NHS who describe the early symptoms as:
• An intense pain or loss of feeling near to a cut or wound
• Swelling of the skin around the affected area
• Flu-like symptoms.

Later symptoms which can arise include:
• Vomiting
• Confusion
• Black, purple, or grey blotches and blisters on the skin.

How is it treated?

The infection is treated through two main methods, amputation of the affected area as in Lesley’s case and antibiotics.

The NHS add: “Even after successful treatment, there may be long-term changes in how your body looks and how you move or use the affected part of your body.”

Losing a limb or any part of the body can be a physically and psychologically distressing experience. As a result, there is help on hand from therapists to help people through this difficult transition.

Speaking about the aftermath, Lesley said: “I have got horrendous scar tissue on the affected area and it still hurts to sit down. I would say if you are showing symptoms to go straight to A&E and do not risk it.”

How common is it?

The infection is rare. Only around 500 people a year are infected in the UK. After her experience, Lesley now wants to raise more awareness of the condition and wants to encourage people to turn their attention to the Lee Sparks Foundation, set up after the death of 23-year-old Lee Sparks in 1999.

The charity was set up by Lee’s mother Dee Cartledge and his father Stephen Spark. The charity raises awareness and shares information about the infection.

Interim executive medical director, Dr James Crampton said: “Our teams are highly trained and skilled in quickly diagnosing conditions, even those that are rare such as necrotising fasciitis. Once diagnosed, prompt action is taken to treat the condition which can include antibiotic treatment or surgery to remove the affected tissue.”

Meanwhile, Lesley’s recovery continues with the support trained medical personnel.

How is necrotising fasciitis caused?

Like other infections, necrotising fasciitis needs a way into the body. Potential entry routes described by the NHS include:
• Cuts and scratches
• Burns and scalds
• Insect bites
• Surgery
• Injecting drugs.

The NHS added patients with diabetes or a weakened immune system are also at greater risk of developing the infection than others.

The health service some who thinks they may have the infection should go to A&E or call NHS 111 or contact the NHS 111 online who will be able to help with next steps.

This story was first reported in Reach title Derby Live.

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