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Having a baby made my skin fall off!

Mum Nicole shares her terrifying story

Minutes after her baby girl arrived, Nicole was left with a mysterious skin condition. 

Here, Nicole Preece, 34, from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, shares the story in her own words.

Holding my newborn baby, Scarlett, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.  

‘I’m so glad you’re both okay,’ my partner Russell cried.  

With a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and a three-hour caesarean, it had been an extremely traumatic birth.   

‘I thought I was going to die,’ I shakily admitted to Russell.  

Peering down at our gorgeous girl, I knew it had been worth it.   

Then, I noticed my hands and feet felt itchy.  

Scratching my hands,  

I saw that a few dry blisters had popped up on my skin.  

Brushing it off as nothing to worry about, I carried on relishing my first cuddle with Scarlett.  

Back home, I was rushed off my feet looking after a new baby, along with my other kids, Jacob and Kane, 10, Rosie, five, Nick, four, and Michael, three.  

The dry, irritated skin didn’t go though, and my hands and feet would often get a weird tingling feeling.  

‘It’ll be fine,’ I told Russell, as I slathered moisturiser on my hands and feet.  

Then, when Scarlett was six months old, she started having a seizure.   

Rushing her to hospital, she had another 17.   

Nicole Preece's foot
I struggled to walk

Desperately worried, I stayed with my girl day and night as doctors ran tests.  

They eventually discovered she’d been born with a microdeletion, which meant some DNA was missing from her chromosomes.   

Medication helped reduce the seizures, but she still experienced them now and again, and it was terrifying.   

Stressed from Scarlett’s illness, my hands and feet continued to suffer.  

Wounds and cracks appeared on my skin after the slightest touch.  

I’d wear gloves to protect them, but blood would often seep through the fabric.  

‘You have to see someone; it’s getting worse,’ Russell insisted.  

But I was too busy with the kids to go to the doctor and although I hadn’t ever had this before, I had convinced myself everything was fine. 

By now, the pain was becoming unbearable though.  

Even bathing Scarlett or cleaning the house was too much. Pus would ooze from the blisters, and the tingling felt like bugs were crawling beneath my skin.  

Nicole with baby Scarlett
I desperately wanted to hold my baby

Unable to cope any longer,  

I finally went to a GP.  

He told me it was dermatitis and prescribed steroid cream.  

But it didn’t help, and after a few more weeks of agony, I went to a dermatologist.  

Within just a few seconds of glancing at my skin, he declared, ‘You have palmoplantar pustulosis (PPP), a form of psoriasis.’  

He explained it was an extremely rare auto-inflammatory disease that may have been triggered from my traumatic birth with Scarlett or the stress of her seizures.   

‘Okay, how do we get rid of it?’ I asked.  

‘There’s no real cure, but phototherapy can sometimes help the symptoms,’ he explained.  

So I went to a specialist who placed my skin under a UV light machine. 

Devastatingly, it only got worse.  

While a normal person’s skin will regenerate about every 30 days, mine was shedding every four to seven.  

It was like having a baby had made my skin fall off! 

When the infection spread to my finger and toe nails,  

I wore ugg boots – even sleeping in them as it was too painful to remove them.  

Nicole Preece's hand
My hands were covered in wounds

Walking was excruciating, and I’d shuffle across the floor, crying out in pain.  

Russell had to quit his job to look after the kids, as  

I spent most days in bed.  

‘You’ll get better, the gunk will go away,’ little Rosie said, as she stroked my head.  

It was torture. I’d been a happy, fun mum, and now I couldn’t play with the kids, or even hold Scarlett without suffering pain.  

Despite the agony, I’d still do it, not wanting to miss out on that precious new baby time. 

I tried every cream under the sun, desperately hoping for a miracle cure.  

Crying myself to sleep at night, Russell would soothe me, saying, ‘It will go soon.’  

I barely left the house and the few times I did, people would give me filthy looks when they saw my hands.  

Heading online, I found alternative cures to try.  

I went vegan, put oat-filled socks on my feet and soaked my limbs in vinegar.  

I even considered urinating on my feet!  

Back at the dermatologist, I broke down.  

‘I can’t do this anymore, nothing is working,’ I cried.  

Nicole, Russell and Scarlett
Russell, Scarlett and me

This time, I was prescribed medication that’s usually given to cancer patients.  

The side effects were horrendous and my hair fell out in clumps and I felt so sick.  

But incredibly, after a year of pain, my skin was finally starting to clear up.  

Along with the pills, I tried a natural cream called MooGoo, which soothed and relieved the soreness. 

Gradually, my skin improved, and after six months of meds, I was finally back to my old self.  

It felt amazing being able to play with the kids or just simply hold their hands.  

‘I’m proud of you, you’re so strong,’ Russell told me.  

Nowadays, I might have the odd flare up, but it’s much more under control.  

Nicole Preece's kids
Jacob, Kane, Nick, Scarlett, Rosie and Michael

Documenting my skin journey, I created an Instagram account called @aussiemum_to6, to help others with the condition.  

No-one should have to go through what I did, but  

I want to remind people who may be suffering that they’re not alone.  

If you think you’ve got it, see a professional immediately.   

I’m just so pleased that the torment is over and  

I can finally focus on enjoying family life. ● 

As told to Kathryn Lewsey 

 

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