Survival

Fat saved my life from a flesh-eating bug

Jacinta's pimple turned into something sinister
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Jacinta Condick and her children as she recovered in hospital from a flesh-eating bug
Supplied/Astha Gupta

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When Jacinta Condick, 54, from Knoxfield, Victoria, discovered a pimple on her stomach, she had no idea she’d end up fighting for her life. Here, she shares her story in her own words.

Scratching my lower right abdomen, near my groin, I sighed. ‘You’re all itchy today,’ my husband, Craig, 52, said.

‘I want to take a fork and scratch!’ I replied. Taking a look, Craig said it looked like a pimple.

A little overweight, I couldn’t see it under my belly, so he took a snap of the small red spot.

‘Just a pimple, it will go away,’ I said. 

I didn’t think much of it when I woke up feeling really off two days later.

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Jacinta Condick and her husband Craig (Credit: Supplied/Astha Gupta)

So I dragged myself to my job as a care worker. A week later, my right side hurt, I had a temperature and felt sick.

The next morning, Craig made me go to the doctor, who took a swab and said it might be cellulitis. A CT scan was booked in for the next day.

Suddenly, the radiologist appeared, his face white as a sheet.

‘You have a life-threatening infection called necrotising fasciitis,’ the radiologist said.

It was known as the flesh-eating bug.

‘Could I die?’ I asked, looking out to the sky.

‘Yes,’ he said, telling me to rush to hospital. I was shell-shocked. It was just a spot, I thought.

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Jacinta Condick and her children as she recovered in hospital from a flesh-eating bug (Credit: Supplied/Astha Gupta)
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Jacinta Condick had a gaping wound where the bug ate into her flesh (Credit: Supplied/Astha Gupta)

My daughter Natalie, 18, was waiting outside in the car, so she drove me to Monash Hospital.

There, doctors booked me in for surgery the next day to get rid of dead tissue the bug had attached itself to.

By now, the bug was eating away all the fat on the right side of the body.

It wasn’t clear how I’d got the infection, as I didn’t have any open wounds, but it could have been that my immune system was low.

Kissing Craig goodnight, the next thing I knew I was waking up feeling really groggy.

Craig, Natalie and my son Brad, 19, were there.

‘You scared us,’ Craig said. I had no idea at all what he meant.

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Jacinta Condick is grateful that she wasn’t slimmer or the bug would have killed her (Credit: Supplied/Astha Gupta)

Apparently, I’d been asleep for 30 hours; my body had become septic and my organs began shutting down.

Doctors fought hard to save my life and had carried out the planned surgery to take away the dead flesh.

If I’d delayed coming to hospital, I’d have died. And if I was skinnier, the bug would have killed me already.

My fat saved my life! I thought, grateful. My brush with death felt so surreal.

My wound was 20cm wide and 8cm deep and I was left with a gaping hole on my right side while it healed. 

After two weeks, I was allowed home. Now 16 months on, I have a big scar, but I’m very grateful for my second chance at life.

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What is necrotising fasciitis?

  • A bacterial infection that causes part of the body’s soft tissue to die.

  • It strikes suddenly and spreads quickly, causing organs to fail if left untreated.

  • The disease kills one in four people infected with it and may start from a minor cut or bruise.

  • Symptoms include red or purple skin in the affected area, severe pain, fever and vomiting.

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