It may sound like something from a horror movie, but a paramedic has described how she dueled with death after catching a flesh-eating bug which 'ate' a tennis ball-sized hole at the top of her leg.
Haley Noele, 29, suffered multiple organ failure within 24 hours of contracting necrotising fasciitis while tending to a fallen jockey.
Bacteria in manure on the ground latched onto her skin, leaving her with a tiny red rash which grew rapidly and ate through her flesh.
She became feverish and was rushed to hospital by a friend the following morning where doctors told her family she might die.
Haley spent two months in isolation and on life support, undergoing surgery six times in order to remove the potentially fatal bug.
She survived the rare disease - which reportedly kills up to 73 percent of sufferers - but it left her with a gaping hole at the top of her leg.
Since contracting the disease in 2013, Haley, of Wabash, Indiana, USA, has spent the last four years relearning how to walk and has often returned to hospital to battle infections in the wound.
The horror health scare even forced the medic of eight years to quit her dream career, but although she 'lost everything', she has also said she is 'lucky to be alive'.
Haley said: "As a paramedic, I had learned about necrotising fasciiitis, but I had never seen a case.
"When I first saw the wound, I felt mortified. I didn't understand how a wound like that could happen in such a short amount of time. It was like gangrene.
"It made me sick to think that this bacteria was eating my flesh and turning it black.
"I was shocked. I was afraid that if I survived I would be disfigured and unable to cope with the distorted body image.
"But if I hadn't gone to hospital that morning I would have been dead."
She added: "The disease has changed everything. I feel lucky to be alive but I often joke that I actually really did die because this is such a different life.
"I have lost the career I love and had to move two hours away to be closer to my family. I lost everything."
Since being discharged she has had to have further surgery to remove E. coli because the wound didn't close fully and got infected.
In March this year - after spending months in hospital - she underwent a radical colostomy to remove her GI system to finally allow the wound to heal properly.
The operation crushed her kidneys and caused her heart to overwork, which made her body retain fluid and swell until she looked 'nine months pregnant'.
Haley has also developed a fear of people touching her after being repeatedly handled and having her wound treated by medics.
But she is beginning to feel stronger and plans to get a job working in the public sector in management or as a 911 dispatcher.
Haley, who is supported by her engineer partner Levi Holmes, 29, and dad John Foust, 51, added: "I'm feeling very optimistic about the future.
"I feel so lucky to be alive because I frequently see that a child has died or someone has had an amputation.
"I'm very very fortunate that that didn't happen."
Now she's made it her mission to raise awareness about necrotising fasciitis (NF) and has called for more research.
The disease is caused by a group of bacteria, with the most common being group A Streptococcus (group A strep), though Haley's was caused by E. coli.
Around 700 to 1100 cases of necrotising fasciitis caused by group A strep occur each year in the United States.
The bacteria infect layers of a membrane known as the fascia, the tissue that surrounds muscles, nerves, fat and blood vessels.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS