Woman survives dreaded disease

A SUFFOLK woman who caught tetanus from a garden flower has made medical history by surviving the disease twice.Jane Maddams, 60, of Catsfield, Stutton, spent three agonising months in hospital after grazing her arm on a hebe stalk.

A SUFFOLK woman who caught tetanus from a garden flower has surprised doctors by surviving the illness twice.

Jane Maddams, 60, of Catsfield, Stutton, spent three agonising months in hospital after grazing her arm on a hebe stalk. At one stage doctors gave her only a 30 per cent chance of survival.

Remarkably, Jane had already been struck down by lockjaw after skinning her knees as a 17-year-old. Doctors had previously thought suffering the disease once prevented any further infection.

And for those with only childhood memories of rusty nails and tetanus jabs, Jane's terrible tale should encourage more people to get booster jabs.

She said: "It was absolutely horrific. I was unconscious for three and a half weeks.

"When you get tetanus your body goes into spasms that can be so severe they can fracture your spine, so you have to be sedated and pumped full of muscle-relaxing drugs."

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But despite her drug-induced inactivity, Jane's mind was working overtime, filling her with horrific hallucinations.

She said: "I was aware that I was completely paralysed and unable to speak and I was getting hallucinations at the same time.

"The last one was of me having to kill my son. By the time you've had three or four you sit back and wait for them to finish.

"But the last one was ghastly, I was begging for it to stop."

Jane thought something was strange when her jaw began to get stiff during an evening meal after an afternoon's gardening. But she didn't guess the full extent of the problem until she woke in the early hours of the following morning.

Recognising the symptoms, she made a frantic call to the doctor and was advised to get a taxi to hospital.

She said: "It would have taken for ever to get a taxi out here and then back to hospital. I thought about calling an ambulance, but again I just thought it would take too long.

"In my blind panic I couldn't think of anybody I knew well enough to take me to hospital, which was silly.

"So I picked up my bag, got in the car and drove myself to Ipswich Hospital. I knew I could seize up at any time, but I thought I either die in the car or go back to bed and die there.

"When I arrived, I parked in the disabled zone and although I have a blue sticker for the car, all I could think about was whether it was going to get clamped while I was inside."

Jane's shock announcement that she had tetanus sent doctors and nurses scurrying to their textbooks. It is believed her case was the first in the area in the last ten years.

Her diagnosis also prompted 21-year-old son Jonathan to quit his job in Surrey and camp himself at his mother's bedside. It is largely to his strength that she attributes her remarkable recovery.

She said: "He demanded, he nagged, he prompted, he insisted, he pleaded, he forced me to stay alive. We've always been very close, always been very great friends as well as mother and son.

"But I had no idea he was so devoted. I am so proud of him, he's a wonderful young man."

Churches across the country – from Chichester Cathedral in Sussex to churches in Cumbria – were leading prayers for her recovery thanks to friends and family in those areas.

But Jane said it was only once she had recovered that the real hard work began.

She said: "Although you're sedated, you're not sleeping. When I came out of intensive care I was absolutely exhausted and desperate for sleep.

"I was terribly weak and my muscles had wasted away. I had to learn to speak again. They had a board with an alphabet on that I had to point at to communicate.

"But I couldn't see it very well because I didn't have my glasses and I couldn't get my hand to move properly, so it was a bit difficult."

Thankfully, Jane is continuing to make a good recovery. Doctors have promised she should get back to something like her old self, although her lungs have suffered permanent damage, worsening a pre-existing condition.

Despite her terrible ordeal, she believes some good may have come from it. She said: "I had no idea I was so well thought of and I've made some very good friends that were just acquaintances before.

"It's a horrendous way of learning a few lessons but if they are useful to other people, then that's fine. Maybe that's my reason for having it."

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