Gemma Hunter, 41, Rossendale, explains why amputation could be her best option...
Gazing at my sleeping son, 16, worry surged through me.
‘You’re going to be alright,’ I said.
Days earlier, he’d been rushed to hospital with chest pains, and I was worried sick.
The outer lining of his heart was inflamed and he needed medication to treat it.
That night, in August last year, I’d opened the window to let air into the stuffy hospital room, when I spotted a spider across the room. It had distinctive markings.
Dismissing it, I put my feet up and tried to get some sleep.
But in the middle of the night, I awoke with a start.
The spider was on my bare right foot, wouldn’t budge.
Reaching down to brush it off, I felt a sharp pain.
‘Ow!’ I gasped.
It felt like a bee sting. The little critter had bitten me!
Next morning, I awoke to my foot tingling and itching.
I didn’t pay much attention to it as my son was discharged that day.
Back home the following day, I awoke to searing pain and a huge lump on my foot.
It was bright red, inflamed.
I tried to ignore it, hoping it’d calm down.
But it didn’t.
As the days went on, the pain became excruciating. And I realised I needed medical attention.
Doctors at Burnley General Hospital A&E were shocked to see the extent of my injury.
‘I think it’s from a spider bite,’ I explained.
Medics agreed, though they didn’t know what species.
I gagged as they made an incision in the wound and began to squeeze a disgusting, yellow pus from the hole.
‘It’s definitely infected,’ they said, as I writhed in pain.
Diagnosed with cellulitis, an infection of the deeper layers of skin and tissue, I was prescribed antibiotics.
Yet I could barely walk.
Three days on, the bite just wasn’t going down, so I returned for another incision.
Eventually, 10 weeks later, I was admitted to hospital.
I was hallucinating, delirious, and the pain was unbearable.
Doctors at North Manchester General Hospital’s tropical medicine department found venom still in the wound.
From it, they could finally identify the species…
‘There’s a good chance it was a false widow,’ an expert said.
In cases of extreme infection, doctors have to amputate.
Thankfully, I wasn’t at that stage yet, and a course of stronger antibiotics worked.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to quit my jobs as a lollipop lady and a security guard, as the pain is so debilitating.
I’ve worked all my life while raising five sons, so it’s difficult.
I keep busy by volunteering as a marshal at racing events. It gives me something to focus on.
The cellulitis could return, my foot constantly tingles and I can’t put any pressure on it.
It’s affecting my quality of life so much, amputation doesn’t seem so bad!
I could never have imagined a spider bite would lead to this.