During a trip to the dentist, a woman in South Africa found out it wasn’t a tooth problem causing her discomfort, but a flesh-eating bug.
42-year-old Madelein Carelse was given the shocking news at a dentist’s office in Vereeniging, in South Africa’s north-eastern Gauteng province. According to Carelse, her pain had started a few days earlier, which prompted her to visit a dentist in her home city of Vanderbijlpark.
The dentist reportedly gave her antibiotics, but a few days later the pain worsened and she was having difficulty breathing, as well as an ominous dark patch that appeared under her chin.
As her condition got worse, Madelein’s husband took her to another dentist, this time in Vereeniging, where the 42-year-old was told: ‘Something is seriously wrong.’
The dentist discovered Madelein was suffering from necrotising fasciitis – a flesh-eating disease which eats away at a person’s soft tissue, it can come on very quickly and spread rapidly around the body.
The condition is extremely rare. In the US, for example, it occurs in around 0.4 people per 100,000, while in western Europe it is around one in 100,000.
In order to save Madelein, doctors had to perform surgery at Sebokeng Hospital in Vanderbijlpark, where they cut away all of the infected tissue to make sure it didn’t reach her vital organs.
Madelein will now need plastic surgery to reconstruct the areas around her face and neck where the tissue was damaged.
Speaking to local media, Madelein’s friend Annemarie van Antwerpen said:
She is very sore. We would like to move her to a private hospital, as we are concerned that the wound appears to be turning septic.
We would also like Carelse to undergo reconstructive surgery, which will require a plastic surgeon.
The 42-year-old is due to undergo surgery next week, and friends have set up a Facebook page to help raise funds for the costs.
Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include red or purple patches of skin commonly on the limbs, severe pain, high fever and vomiting. The infection usually enters a person’s body through a break in the skin, such as a cut or burn.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.