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Horror struck and flipped a joyous trip of backpacking around Asia into a nightmare when Ben Whiteside was attacked by a deadly bug, necrotising fasciitis, which ate away at his flesh and bone.
It all began during a two-trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge in China's Yunnan Province where Ben grazed his left knee. What followed was no less than a nightmare for him, and his girlfriend, Anneka Shally, who was with him on the trip. Scroll down and check out the whole story.
Ben Whiteside and girlfriend Anneka Shally had been teaching in Hong Kong, and decided to bring their trip to a perfect end by backpacking around Asia. Least did they know that it was going to end up being far from perfect. Some time during a two-trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge in China's Yunnan Province the trip, Ben grazed his knee. It was a few days later, during a 14-hour bus ride to Laos, that Ben realized that the pain in his knee was worsening.
Ben rushed to a doctor, who told him that the wound was infected. Prescribing some antibiotics, the doctor sent him back. But the very next day, Ben woke up vomiting and suffering from a high temperature."I don't know exactly what his temperature was, as I had no thermometer, but he was boiling and very sweaty. I left him to rest, but the day after he was still being sick. We thought he was reacting to the antibiotics," says Anneka, Ben's 24-year-old girlfriend, and partner on the trip.
Consulting the doctor again did not help much, as he said that the vomiting was due to food poisoning. The couple took his word for it, because it made good sense to them. Ben began to feel better the next day. The vomiting had stopped, but it was only after a few more hours that the true nightmare began to take shape. Here's the first sign of the beginning of the nightmare in Anneka's own words: "The top of Ben's left thigh had swollen up, while his knee seemed to have gone back to normal. Rather than spread, the infection had moved up the leg – I knew it was serious then. The couple hit the hospital immediately, but all they did was take an X-Ray and send them back with a load of vitamin supplements. We knew it was an infection," said Anneka. "And they just weren't dealing with it. Nobody seemed to know what they were doing. It was terrifying. " The next morning, at around 4 am, Ben woke up in excruciating pain, saying he could feel something on the back of his leg. Shining the light of her mobile phone on his leg, Anneka said what she saw was like something out of a horror film!
"The whole skin on that thigh was purple and black with this big bleeding wound in the middle. It was horrific. But I tried to keep calm, for Ben's sake. It was the middle of the night, too – what could we do?" Anneka texted her cousin Siobhan Glavy, a doctor in Dublin, for advice. By the time it was morning, the couple was back at the hospital, where Ben was given a bed with no bedsheets or pillow, hooked up to intravenous antibiotics and diagnosed with cellulitis of the leg. Meanwhile, Ben's mom back home received the news of her son being unwell, and booked the couple into a smart hotel. But because the couple was not in a place to be able to use the room, the manager turned up at the hospital with clean bedding and pillows to make his stay more comfortable.
It was necessary to transport Ben to a hospital in Bangkok because his illness needed advanced medication, which was not available in the hospital they were currently in. So arrangements were made by Anneka, with the help of Angela, to transport Ben to Bangkok. However, the couple had to wait another 24 hours because of clearance issues at the airport.
On reaching Bangkok, Ben was almost immediately taken into surgery. The doctors secretly told Anneka that Ben would lose his leg. But that was something Anneka and Ben both already knew.The doctors at Bangkok skipped explaining how severe the condition was because Ben had little time in his hand. Afterwards, however, they explained he had contracted the rare flesh eating disease necrotising fasciitis. His condition was so severe that If he hadn't had surgery, he would have been dead within days.The infection had also spread to his kidneys, but because Ben had been brought into proper medical care just in time, the doctors hoped the antibiotics would help flush the germs out. He had also developed severe sepsis, where the entire body creates an inflammatory response to infection, which can prove fatal.
Ben's response to treatment was possibly the first good thing that had happened in days. His kidneys were clear and the sepsis gone. In 13 more days, Ben's condition had improved enough for him to be allowed to be fled home. However, the bacteria has done him severe damage, eating up his leg down to the bone. Ben has had seven operations to remove the dead tissue and is currently in Belfast's Ulster Hospital after a series of skin grafts."Considering how sick he was, Ben rallied really well. He was incredible. The worse part for both of us was those few days in Laos because were completely in the dark. A doctor told me, away from Ben, that in Bangkok they would probably have to remove his leg. He was just saying what I knew Ben and I were both thinking, though – even if we didn't say it," says Anneka.