Here, Sage Noreika, 26, tells the story in her own words.
W￼iggling my toes in the sand, I soaked up the sun.
After falling off a kerb and breaking my ankle, I’d spent three months in a moon boot, and it’d just come off.
‘We have to celebrate!’ my boyfriend of a year, Marco*, said.
So he’d taken me on holiday to Sardinia, an island in his native Italy.
As an Aussie living in London, it was great to be back by the sea.
That night, after a full day at the beach and a big dinner, we were exhausted.
Climbing into bed, I fell asleep in Marco’s arms. But then, a blood-curdling scream jolted me awake. Are we being robbed?! I panicked.
Pitch black, I could just make out Marco’s shadow.
Shrieking, he was running around, crashing into furniture.
He often woke me up mumbling and sometimes he’d sleepwalk. But this sounded like he was being murdered!
‘Let’s go back to bed,’ I soothed.
Just then, Marco lunged at me and instantly, my left hand flared with pain. Next, he lifted me off the bed and threw me against the wall.
Coming to seconds later, I screamed in agony. My hand was pulsating.
Did he bite me? I thought. How could my sweet boyfriend hurt me? When I’d broken my ankle, he’d cared for me the entire time. He wasn’t a monster! But now I could hear him smashing things in the bathroom…
Without warning, the lights switched on.
Pale as a ghost, Marco looked horrified and I saw I was sitting in a pool of red. ‘What have I done?’ he choked out.
Grabbing tissues, Marco pressed them on my hand.
There was so much blood, we couldn’t see the damage.
‘I’d never hurt you – you know how much I love you…’ he cried, hugging me. ‘I know you didn’t mean it,’ I said. ‘You should run it under a tap,’ Marco said.
Gingerly standing up, I walked into the bathroom.
Pulling the tissues off, flecks of lint were stuck in the wound. But as the water washed the mess away, I was met with a horrifying sight. Half my thumb is missing! I realised.
The flesh had been sheared off down to the knuckle, the bone sticking out like a scene from a zombie film. ‘You’ve bitten off my thumb!’ I screamed, frozen with shock.
Seeing the damage, Marco nearly threw up.
‘Where’s the rest of it?’ he fretted. ‘Maybe it can be reattached…’
But peering under all the furniture, the top half of my thumb had disappeared.
Looking at each other, we made the gruesome realisation at the same time – he’d swallowed it!
Racing to hospital, I saw the shock on the nurses’ faces as Marco told them in Italian what had happened.
An X-ray showed Marco’s teeth had chipped the bone. ‘Dog bite?’ the clinician asked. ‘No!’ I grimaced.
The injury was cleaned and bandaged and I was given antibiotics and painkillers, but told I’d need plastic surgery back in London.
‘At least I’ll get through immigration easily – they won’t be able to fingerprint me,’ I joked.
At a loss, Marco and I tried to make sense of the horror.
It turns out, as a teen he’d run outside his house yelling, while still asleep. And when we googled, it sounded like a night terror – an episode of intense fear which occurs when partly aroused from deep sleep.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said over and over again.
Back in London, we rushed straight to hospital. By now, I had a fever.
‘The human bite is far more infectious than any animal,’ a doctor explained.
Pumped full of antibiotics, I went in for surgery the next morning. Amazingly, the surgeon used the remaining skin to re-form my thumb.
‘You may never grow a nail again,’ she said. But that was the least of my worries!
A week later, the nurse unravelled my bandages and I got to see my new digit. Still raw, it looked pretty horrific. ‘It’ll get better,’ she said. But it was 2cm shorter than my right thumb!
By the third week, a tiny shard of a nail even started to sprout. I was on the mend, but the hardest part was yet to come. Lying next to Marco, every time he’d flinch, I’d feel a rush of fear.
What if he turns into that monster again? I’d fret.
I knew it wasn’t his fault, but sadly it was too much for us both and we broke up.
Three months on, I’m back in Perth living with my parents. I don’t blame Marco, as he has a serious sleep condition, which so little is known about.
My thumb is healing, but as the nerves grow back, it’s ultra sensitive. It’s been tough, but I try to see the lighter side. ‘Thumbs up!’ I’ll joke to Mum and Dad.
I’ve been in the wars, but the only way is up.
*Name has been changed.
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