"Nearly eaten alive"
Australia is like the wild, wild West of the modern-day world.
Long storied for its history as a penal colony, its sheer vastness, and its incredible biodiversity, Australia is a country and continent that both fascinates and thrills people to this day. Aside from being an English-speaking, first world country, Australia’s diverse peoples, landscapes, and ecosystems make the entire place seem like somewhere out of fiction, a world within itself that’s constantly filled with adventure.
But along with that adventure comes more than a fair share of danger. Australia’s infamous flora and fauna have made it a tourist destination for decades, what with bizarre animals and creepy critters that can’t be found in nature anywhere else in the entire world. And while many of these are adorable and charming and perfect for a photo op, others would injure or end you just as soon as look at you. We may like to think we are at the top of the food chain, but you just need to take a walk in Australia to be reminded that that isn’t always the case, not by a long shot.
Of course it’s easy to think of the major predators or obvious threats like sharks, crocodiles (AKA living dinosaurs), toxic species of octopus, and jellyfish, not to mention innumerable species and sizes of spiders and snakes that we see or hear about on Animal Planet or around the web. And these are just a few of the animals that will attack you directly, even if you’ve been minding your own business. Even more animals, even typically peaceful ones like kangaroos, can pose fatal risks if you crash your car into them when they jump out onto the road at nighttime, or if you otherwise end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But while we may worry the most about these larger threats, sometimes the deadliest things of all can’t even be seen by the human eye. For one wife and mother of three living down under, a entirely commonplace injury turned into a life-threatening nightmare that nobody could have possibly seen coming. We wouldn’t wish this on our worst enemy. Keep reading and be warned, these images are not for the faint of heart.
On the Move
Meet Clare Scott. Clare is your average stay-at-home mother of three from Brisbane, Australia. At 37 years of age, she is living her best life with her husband Alister, who is 36 and works as an IT engineer, and their three children: Finley, who is eight years old, Orson, who is six, and Winston, who is just four years old. If you saw them from afar, you would think that life for them was picture-perfect, and indeed it was. That is, things were perfect until they moved back in May of 2017.
Moving is never an easy process, from finding the perfect new home to making sure that your old house gets off the market as quickly as possibly for the right price. Business and money transactions aside, there’s all the physical labor involved: the cleaning; the going through years’ worth of junk to decide what to keep, what to sell, and what to discard; the packing; the taking apart and moving around of furniture; the potential hiring of movers to do some of the heavy lifting for you; more packing; all the cleaning; repainting walls and fixing any dents or defects around the house; did we mention all the packing? Both time and labor intensive, moving is an exhausting ordeal, and it’s easy to get lost in all the hours and energy that goes into moving your family from point A to point B.
That’s exactly what Clare Scott and her family went through last May. They were so busy during the moving process that Clare didn’t even notice when she caught her right hand’s ring finger in their new house while unpacking numerous boxes. Most of us bump, scratch, and ding up our bodies countless times during an average day, and Clare thought that this was no different. She said, “I noticed a small pain, but I had been doing a lot of moving and washing-up, so I thought I must have caught it on something, but it was nothing serious. I had children to organize and a house to unpack, so I was just keen on getting on with it.”
We’ve all been in a similar situation where we ignore any small problems to carry on with the bigger issues at hand, especially when kids or an entire family are involved. Few people would put a small scratch first over taking care of moving their family, and Clare was no different. Little did she know that that small scratch was just the beginning of the nightmare.
How often have you injured yourself at some point during the day without even realizing, only to see your hand or arm or leg later on and notice some strange cut or bruise? Some people sustain pretty ghastly injuries without even noticing it until someone points it out. It’s amazing how the human body and brain can help us recover or completely ignore small injuries from time to time. But not everything can—or should—be ignored, especially when time is of the essence.
Unfortunately for Clare, ignoring her seemingly-innocent scratch would only make matters worse for her down the road. Just several days after catching her finger during the move, Clare realized something was wrong: Her finger was red and swollen, and shortly afterwards she started vomiting, so her husband Alister called a doctor to come over and look into it. Clare recalls that she was waiting for the groceries to be delivered when this was all happening, and she thought that her strange illness would be taken care of before dinner was ready. She explains, “When the doctor arrived at around 5pm she said it looked like it was infected and that I needed to go to [the accident and emergency department] at our local hospital.”
We’ve all dealt with strange infections before, so at first Clare and her family thought it was just ‘one of those things’ and nothing serious to worry about. After arriving at the hospital, Clare was given intravenous antibiotics. “My whole hand had swollen up and the pain and feeling of pressure was spreading up my arm. But still I didn’t think it was serious. I insisted Alister and the kids wait for the [food to be delivered] at home, before coming to collect me later.”
The doctors, however, wanted Clare to spend the night, just to be safe. As the evening went on, however, it became obvious that she would not be released by the morning, and it culminated when Clare woke up screaming in pain in the middle of the night. “My hand and arm looked like a balloon had been blown up. They were getting bigger and bigger. I felt like it my limb would explode any moment.” Panicked, the doctors informed Clare that she was being rushed into surgery.
This surgery would be the first of nine, and as Clare’s pain only got worse, she moved moved into the ICU and underwent two more surgeries over the next several days before doctors discovered what they believed was plaguing Clare: Necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as the flesh-eating disease.
Necrotizing fasciitis has been around since ancient times, although the term itself didn’t come into use until the mid-20th century.
Perhaps one of the most frightening infections known to man, this infectious disease is brought on most commonly by a blend of bacteria entering the body typically through a cut or burn before it proceeds to kill the body’s soft tissue in the affected areas. The infection can spread rapidly, and it often appears to be another issue in its early stages, thus making it difficult to accurately diagnose, especially in immunocompromised individuals. It affects only 0.4 to 1 person per 100,000 per year, but it nonetheless remains a lethal threat with an average mortality rate ranging from 25% to 35%. It may not sound too high, but trust me, you do not want this to be the way you go.
Though especially rare in people with good general health, the infection doesn’t discriminate once it enters the body. It most commonly affects the limbs or the groin area, and while treatable with a blend of antibiotics, the primary treatment is debridement—the surgery and removal of the unhealthy or dead tissue—or even amputation.
You could imagine Clare’s shock at hearing the news. How could a simple scratch turn into a life-threatening infection? Was this always lurking in their new home, or was it something that got picked up along the way
while moving? How would you react to the news that you were now battling a real-life flesh-eating bug? Clare’s operations continued over the following days, and the odds of her survival grew worse.
“I was told there was a 50 per cent chance of me coming out of the operation alive,” she explained. “Even then, there was a real chance I could lose my fingers, hand or even my whole arm. That’s when I really freaked out and broke down. I was a mum, I had a loving husband, and I couldn’t imagine my family not having me around, or not being able to carry out all the normal activities we enjoyed – like going to the park, or hugging my kids. I just wanted things to go back to how they were.”