A mum-of-two had to have her legs amputated after mistaking a deadly infection for coronavirus.
When Cher Little, 47, from Connah’s Quay, Wales, started feeling unwell with a headache and fever she initially assumed she had contracted COVID-19.
But it later worsened to a rash on her skin with blisters appearing on her body and her lips turning purple.
Her worried family rushed her to hospital where she was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia and was given only a 20% chance of surviving the illness.
After she was placed in an induced coma, the data analyst’s limbs turned black and doctors were left with no choice but to amputate her legs from the knee down in February this year.
“I feel very lucky to be alive and with my children and partner, Mark," Little explains.
“It was touch and go for three weeks after being admitted to hospital as I was in a coma and my organs had shut down," she continues.
The mum-of-two now wishes she'd been more aware of the symptoms of the condition.
“In hindsight, I should have known it was meningitis as my temperature was 39 degrees and my headache was radiating around my head," she explains.
“But it was during the peak of the pandemic and I assumed it was coronavirus.
“I did a test which came back negative the next day.
“At this point my lips were purple, I remember going for a nap and waking up to a blister-like rash all over my face.”
Little's family called an ambulance after describing her becoming "delirious".
She was put into an induced coma within 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital, with doctors explaining her body had gone into septic shock.
“It is horrible hearing the horror stories from my family," she continues.
“They rang multiple times and prepared to say goodbye. The doctors didn’t think I was going to make it but somehow, I miraculously pulled through. I woke up after 23 days in a coma to black hands and feet.
“It was so scary!”
Little remained in hospital until Christmas Eve last year but continued to have weekly appointments to have her limbs bandaged.
On January 26, she underwent a procedure that involved removing dead or damaged tissue called debridement.
“I knew in my heart that amputation was going to happen because my feet were solid black," she explains.
“They were mummified and I couldn’t move them.
“The doctor also discovered avascular necrosis which is a disease that results from the temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bone.
“I was scared and worried about how I would cope when they said I needed an amputation but I knew my family would be there to support me,” she adds.
On February 3 earlier this year, Little had both legs from the knee down amputated.
“I miss having my independence and freedom," she says of life post-amputation, "but having no legs isn’t the end of the world. I am still in pain as I have nerve damage but it all could have been so different.
“I was given a 20% chance of survival."
Little says the fact that doctors described her as a "medical miracle" makes her determined to embrace life back at home with her children Georgia, 23, Ryan, 19, and partner Mark Rowlands, 49.
“I am grateful to be here with my family and I refuse to let anything get in my way," she adds.
“I use a wheelchair most of the time and I am learning how to adapt but I want to carry on with life."
Watch: Mum who lost limbs to sepsis looking forward to hugging her children thanks to bionic arms.
What is meningitis?
According to the NHS meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
If it isn't treated quickly, it can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.
Symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and can include:
a high temperature (fever)
a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it (but a rash will not always develop)
a stiff neck
a dislike of bright lights
drowsiness or unresponsiveness
Meningococcal septicaemia – or blood poisoning – occurs when the bacteria in the blood multiply uncontrollably, which causes damage to blood vessels.
It can cause bleeding into the skin and organs and blood clots can develop in the bloodstream.
These block small blood vessels and cause tissue to die - which can cause limbs to die and need to be amputated.
Additional reporting Caters.