Stacey Thomas returned from a work trip feeling common symptoms that we’ve all experienced from time to time. However, when she finally checked herself into the hospital, she was only hours away from death and nearly lost her leg as well. Now, her story is serving as a warning to others.
Thomas, a 30-year-old business development manager, began feeling unwell during a trip to Germany but decided to power through her flu-like symptoms by dosing up on over-the-counter medication. “I didn’t feel very well but I was away and dosed up on paracetamol,” she explained.
“I’d been on a short trip with work, but it was only once I was at the airport returning home that my leg started to feel hot and painful,” Thomas recalled. “I went to the toilet to have a look, and I was shocked. It was painful, there was a rash, and it looked swollen. What happened from there was a complete nightmare, I didn’t realize how seriously ill I was.”
Thomas checked herself into the hospital when she arrived back home, and it was then that her real horror began. She learned she had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, but she had no idea how. The rare but serious bacterial infection affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs.
It’s sometimes called the ‘flesh-eating disease,’ although the bacteria that cause it don’t ‘eat’ flesh – they release toxins that damage nearby tissue. It can start from a relatively minor injury, such as a small cut, but gets worse very quickly. Early symptoms can include a small but painful cut or scratch on the skin, intense pain, a high temperature (fever), and flu-like symptoms. [Source: NHS Choices]
At the hospital, Thomas’ infection quickly started to spread from her kneecap to her groin. She was rushed into an emergency MRI scan, but her condition quickly deteriorated, and she had was forced to undergo immediate surgery. She was warned she may wake up without her leg.
“I had to sign a consent form to say I was happy for them to remove my leg if they needed to during a lifesaving operation, but I was so unwell that I had no idea what it was for,” Thomas explained. “I was in so much pain by this point that I was drifting in and out of consciousness. If I’d have left going to [the] hospital any longer, I would have died.”
When Thomas awoke after her surgery, she was relieved to discover that doctors had been able to save her leg. “The amputation would have been my entire leg from my hip joint so when doctors explained how close I’d been to losing my life or limb, I was instantly relieved to see my leg still there,” she said. However, her horrifying medical ordeal was far from over.
“I had six surgeries in just two weeks on my leg as they tried to close the huge holes that had appeared across my leg together,” said Thomas. “On one occasion a doctor came in to check on my stitches when the wound exploded like a blood blister. It left a fist sized hole in my leg that he then put his hand into to feel inside. It was so gross and I could barely believe it was happening.”
It took three months and many surgeries to recover, but Thomas was eventually released from the hospital, and now, she’s even back in the gym, trying to put the unforeseen health scare behind her. “I hope my story highlights the importance of listening to your body,” she told Daily Mail. “I’ve come away with a few scars on my leg but I nearly lost my life.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Thomas’ story is that it could seemingly happen to any one of us. We’ve all had flu-like symptoms or gotten a minor cut before. Knowing that something like this could develop into a life-threatening infection in a matter of days is quite concerning.
Moreover, most people have never even heard of necrotizing fasciitis, and sometimes, knowledge can be the difference between life and death in situations like this. If Stacey Thomas had waited even one day longer to go to the hospital, she would not have her leg today and could have possibly even lost her life.
It is important to listen to your body when it’s telling you something is wrong and share information like this with others so that they can do the same. Truly, you can never be too careful when it comes to matters of health. You’ve only got one body, so you must look after it.