I was bitten by an insect five years ago – now doctors say I might die
A WOMAN who was bitten by an insect five years ago is now in constant fear she will die.
Fern Wormald, 48, has never felt well since being bitten on her toe while on safari in Senegal in 2017.
She believes it triggered a condition she now suffers with called lymphoedema, which causes excessive swelling, usually in the legs or arms.
It puts her at higher risk of infections, and a month ago, she was hospitalised with deadly sepsis.
Terrified of getting sepsis again, Fern, from Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, is looking for ways to treat her countless health problems.
She told Yorkshire Live: “I'm trapped in a vicious cycle, and I'm living with the threat of sepsis all the time.
"The doctor's actual words to me were: 'We'll see you again, we'll treat you, we'll send you home. We'll see you again, we'll treat you, we'll send you home'."
Fern was on a trip to Africa, where she and her daughter were teaching Maths and English to schoolchildren in The Gambia, when she was bitten.
She says doctors have been unable to agree on what bit her, with suggestions including a snake, spider, or a mosquito.
After being prescribed antibiotics, Fern returned home when “enormous blisters appeared" – and she spent seven weeks in hospital.
Fern said she cannot remember everything that happened because she suffered delirium.
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But she remembered doctors discussing that she may have to undergo amputation.
Thankfully, this was not the case, though Fern has faced many difficulties since.
She gets recurring episodes of cellulitis, which is a skin infection that causes the skin to become painful, red, hot and swollen.
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition, whereby the lymphatic system is unable to drain excess fluid in the body. It leads to accumulation of fat in limbs.
There are many reasons why it can develop, including inflammation, obesity or injury.
Filariasis – a tropical disease transmitted to humans via a mosquito – is a leading cause of lymphoedema worldwide, including in Africa.
Fern said: "I get very aggressive cellulitis, and because my legs are so swollen they split and sometimes they ulcerate.
“I've got eleven ulcers at the minute.”
The ulcers feel like "someone has poured acid into an open wound", Fern said.
The NHS explains that body parts affected by lymphoedema are more vulnerable to infection of the build-up of fluid within the tissues.
Any cuts in the skin can allow bacteria to enter the body and may quickly develop into an infection.
It was likely Fern’s sepsis developed this way, as the potentially fatal condition occurs when the body overreacts to an infection.
Fern was rushed to hospital with “very serious” sepsis four weeks ago after being found unconscious.
Fern – who says she has “no social life” due to her poor health – is now desperate to get liposuction privately to reduce the size of her legs.
The NHS may sometimes offer liposuction for lymphedema, which affects around 200,000 people in the UK.
But it’s primary treatment is decongestive lymphatic therapy (DLT) – a combination of compression badges, skin care, exercise and massage.
Fern says she’s tried this but to no avail, and with the NHS unable to offer her anything more, she is looking to go private.
"It would change my life, and with this threat of sepsis all the time it could potentially save my life," Fern said.
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Fern's treatment has been started by her friend Laura Hopkinson.
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