Woman Left Fighting For Life After Cat Scratch Became Infected
WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
A woman was left fighting for her life after a simple cat scratch, having contracted a deadly flesh-eating bug.
Shirley Hair, 65, was in a coma after her 'spiteful' pet Siamese cat scratched her hand and the wound became infected - causing the grandmother of five to feel dizzy, lose her appetite and feel confused, with aching muscles.
She initially put her symptoms down to a bad bout of flu, but Shirley had to be rushed to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, where she was diagnosed with sepsis, septic shock, organ failure, pneumonia and Necrotizing Fasciitis (NF) - a flesh-eating disease that results in the death of parts of the body's soft tissue, and can prove fatal.
Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to remove the infected tissue from her hand, before Shirley was placed in a medically-induced coma to let her body rest while she recovered.
She then spent five days in a coma and more than six weeks in hospital for a series of operations and skin grafts.
Shirley, a retired carer, said she has now rehomed the £400 pedigree cat - called Chan - explaining: "'That cat had always been spiteful, he was very expensive though!
''The day he scratched me I'd been gardening, I tried to pick him up for a cuddle but he wasn't having it.
''The scratch was quite deep, but I didn't think much of it until I started to get flu-like symptoms and totally lost my appetite.
''A doctor came out to see me and prescribed antibiotics, but after a few days I was feeling worse than ever.
''Then my arm began to get red and started swelling up really fast. It was scary. I was rushed into hospital and I was terrified as by that point I'd realised this was something very serious.
''The medics were amazing, but even after the emergency surgery to remove the tissue, I just carried on deteriorating. I felt like I was going to die. I couldn't believe this could all happen from a simple scratch.''
Shirley, who lives with her husband Bob, 69, bought Chan back in 2016, after spotting an ad on Gumtree.
At first the cat was quite nervous and didn't like being handled, but became 'quite savage' as he got older, and often lashed out at his owners.
When Shirley was admitted to hospital in April 2018, her family were told to 'expect the worst' by doctors, who identified the cat scratch as the cause of her illness.
After a series of procedures, Shirley's condition continued to deteriorate and she suffered two heart attacks after another operation to remove the infection.
Medics were then forced to sedate and ventilate her in order to stablise her, before she was kept in the Intensive Care Unit for almost a month before she began to show signs of improvement.
Shirley explained: ''After coming out of the coma I was severely paranoid due to the combination of infection and medication. I became convinced that I was responsible for the whole thing.
''My son, James, told me that the cat did it but I didn't believe him, I thought they were all covering for me. It was so distressing.
''On top of that I'd been having dreadful nightmares - I was convinced I was in a video game, running from monsters. It was absolutely horrific.''
Once Shirley was well enough, doctors performed a skin graft from the top of her leg in order to cover up the 'gaping wound' on her arm - which was so deep, her tendons were exposed.
A machine called a vac pump was fitted to decrease air pressure on the wound and help the skin tissue grow, and she was given physiotherapy sessions to regain movement.
More than eight operations and two months in hospital later, Shirley's hand is finally 'almost as good as it was'.
She said: ''I can't thank my family and the NHS enough for getting me back to almost full health.
''It's really been quite an ordeal, but they've all supported me 100 percent every single step of the way.
''My memory isn't as good as it was, I can be quite absent minded nowadays and I'm definitely not as sharp as I was before I got ill. But I'm here and that's all that matters.
''I went back to visit the amazing nurses in ICU and they were speechless to see me looking so well.
''They said to me 'not everyone comes out of here as perky as you Shirley' and that's when it really hit home how lucky I am to be alive. Some people must not come out at all.
''I've even read through all the diary entries my family wrote, I can't get through them without weeping. The depth of love they have for me is just staggering.
''I feel like the luckiest woman alive! After all that happened I decided I really couldn't face Chan the cat anymore so my daughter Zoe volunteered to have him.
''She popped him in a basket and took him home to Wales on the train. She loves animals and isn't really fazed by much at all.
''Our lovely golden Labrador Finn is glad to see the back of Chan too, after having his ears bitten constantly, he can relax now.''
Shirley is now thankfully back at home in Winterbourne, Bristol.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS