Man survives flesh-eating bug nightmare

DOCTORS have saved the life of an Ipswich man after he was struck down by an horrific “flesh-eating” superbug.

Craig Robinson

DOCTORS have saved the life of an Ipswich man after he was struck down by an horrific “flesh-eating” superbug.

Gavin Elliott, 34, from Ipswich, thought he had pulled a torso muscle - but as the pain rapidly got worse, he was told it was the extremely rare Necrotizing fasciitis bug, of which there are only a handful of cases in the UK each year.

Within just 24 hours, the flesh-eating infection had spread across his back and abdomen.

Ipswich Hospital surgeons diagnosed it quickly and carried out emergency surgery, in which Mr Elliott lost around 20per cent of his skin.

He has now spoken of the horrifying ordeal for the first time to raise awareness of the superbug and thank to the doctors who saved his life.

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“I have a lot to thank Ipswich Hospital for - I can't praise them enough. The surgeons, doctors and nurses have been fantastic and without their quick thinking I dread to think what would have happened,” he said.

Consultant surgeon David Rae praised Mr Elliott's courage, adding: “The infection will literally spread in front of your eyes. It's an horrific condition.”

The infection, which has a mortality rate as high as 73pc, caused doctors to fear Mr Elliott would not make it through his first operation.

What followed was a two-month nightmare for Mr Elliott and his new wife Sarah - who tied the knot less than a year before.

He was rushed into surgery on June 2 and had two three-hour operations - one to remove the infected tissue, which covered around 20pc of his torso, and the other to graft skin from his legs back onto his body.

He was able to leave hospital on July 2 - in time for his wedding anniversary on July 7 - but was in again two weeks later complaining of severe stomach pains.

After a number of tests it was discovered he had contracted Clostridium-difficile and that his colon was also close to bursting - another life threatening condition.

He has now returned home to Rosehill Road and is making a full and remarkable recovery.

Mr Elliott said: “There was a red mark under my armpit and I had a pain in my left side. We'd been out with friends the night before and I just thought I'd over done it or pulled a muscle.

“It was one of those typical situations - being male - that I didn't want to ring up and bother the hospital. Thankfully Sarah persuaded me to go to A&E and it's a good job she did.

“They gave me morphine to control the pain but it had no effect. The doctors knew something was terribly wrong and they did lots of tests. Luckily the surgeon who did the operation had seen it before and knew exactly what it was so they rushed me into theatre.

“They cut open my chest and removed a lot of skin from my back and side. When I came out I was on life support for quite a while.”

Mr Elliott, who works for Desira car dealership in Diss, said it is still a mystery how he caught the infection.

“We may never know,” he said. “I take medication for another condition that suppresses my immune system - that's the only thing we can think of.”

Do you know someone who has survived thanks to the amazing work of staff at Ipswich Hospital? E-mail or write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

CONSULTANTS David Rae and Hussain Abrar performed the operations that saved Gavin Elliott's life.

They praised the 34-year-old for his courage and described his ordeal as a “living nightmare”.

Mr Rae, a consultant surgeon at Ipswich Hospital for ten years, made the diagnosis and immediately rushed his patient into theatre.

He was forced to cut away large areas of Mr Elliott's torso - from the middle of his back, round to his abdomen and pelvis.

“When operating you have to be aggressive and get beyond the infection,” he said. “It affects the skin and the layer underneath. However you must be sure you're cutting into the healthy skin. He had a huge area removed - the infection was galloping - leaving just the muscle exposed.

“What Mr Elliott went through was horrific - everyone who looked after him has commented on how courageous he was. It's easy to say about a lot of people but he went through a living nightmare.”

Mr Abrar, who is Ipswich Hospital's only consultant plastic surgeon, performed the three hour skin graft operation.

“Because there was no skin for protection Mr Elliott was very susceptible to infection,” he said.

“Fortunately the skin graft has taken beautifully and he has made a marvellous recovery. I actually saw him in the supermarket the other day and didn't recognise him.”