A mum of six who had 19 kg of her rotting belly sliced away after a flesh eating bug infected her C-section scar is desperate to raise money for a new mobility scooter – so she can take her daughter to her first day at nursery school.
When Sarah Humphrey, 41, alerted hospital staff to a horrible smell coming from her belly soon after giving birth to her youngest daughter in February 2018, it was the start of a rollercoaster journey.
The stench which she says was “like rotting meat” was coming from her scar and was being caused by potentially deadly necrotising fasciitis – otherwise known as the “flesh eating disease.”
Rushed into surgery – for the first of many operations – Sarah, a single mum, who lives in east London, said: “When I woke up from the first operation there was a long tube coming out of my belly, sucking all the infected flesh into a machine.”
Capable of killing within a few days if left untreated, necrotising fasciitis is a serious infection, caused when a vicious bacteria infects a wound.
Even the smallest of cuts can become infected and it releases toxins that poison the ‘fascia’ – the connective tissue beneath the skin – effectively making the patient rot from the inside out.
Remarkably, doctors managed to remove the rot, but it took 10 weeks of cutting the infected flesh out of Sarah’s body, with around two operations a week, before she was able to go home in the spring.
Luckily, by the summer of 2018, Sarah was clawing her way back to normality, which saw her taking her youngest daughter for walks with a buggy in the park.
But, in the autumn, she was hit by another health drama when a hernia she describes as being “the size of a child’s head” flared up – caused when an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall.
A painful, but not life threatening condition, Sarah was put on the waiting list for surgery.
But she says general waiting times, compounded by Covid delays, mean she is yet to be given a date.
Finding standing for any length of time difficult, as she says it is awkward and painful, Sarah had been using a mobility scooter to get around.
Sadly though, it has broken down irreparably, leaving her with no means of getting out and meaning she could miss taking her youngest child to nursery for the first time.
Needing £550, which she cannot afford, to buy a new one, she has now asked for strangers to help her raise the money by launching a GoFundMe page, so she can leave the house as she waits for hernia surgery.
“My youngest daughter is starting nursery in two weeks and I don’t want to miss her first day,” said Sarah, who wishes her children to remain anonymous.
Despite everything, Sarah does realise that she is lucky to be alive.
Originally booked in for a C-section at 39 weeks, as she had been diagnosed with symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) – a condition causing a sharp pain around the pelvis, perineum and lower back that can occur in pregnancy – she had been nervous about the operation.
But, when her daughter was born healthy and smiling, she could not have felt happier.
She said: “I was scared, as I had never had an operation before. My previous pregnancies were normal, straightforward and easy.
“Still, my daughter came out covered in blood and smiled.”
Then, when she contracted necrotising fasciitis – a ferocious bug that can spread two to three inches in as many hours – she found herself going under the knife again and again.
Finally, after 10 weeks in hospital, during which 19 kg (3st) of rotting flesh was cut from her belly, Sarah returned home in spring.
While it took time – her muscles wasted by so much time in a hospital bed – to regain her mobility, she managed it, only for the hernia to floor her once again.
With her movement now extremely restricted, she is desperate to replace the mobility scooter she needs to shop for groceries, to feed her family and that gets her out of the house and allows her to feel part of the world.
“All I want is some kind of normality” she said.
You can donate to Sarah’s campaign here – https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-me-get-some-sort-of-normality
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