A woman was in a coma for eight days after a deadly flesh-eating bug infested her chest – possibly caused by a scratch on her bra.
Sylvia Halcrow believes the metal in her temple caused an injury that progressed to the dangerous bacterial infection necrotizing fasciitis.
After visiting her local GP and receiving pain medication, the officer went to the emergency room immediately when her condition worsened.
Doctors examined an abscess on her right breast for days.
She was eventually diagnosed with the disease and told her organs had started to fail, she said.
The 53-year-old underwent surgery and woke up from the induced coma eight days later. Part of her breast was removed and a 15 inch scar ran from her ribs to under her arm.
Sylvia, from Lerwick in Shetland, Scotland, said: “I almost didn’t survive so I’m really, really grateful.”
“It’s scary to think it was caused by my bra.”
“I’ve now switched to a different non-wired style, just in case.”
“It’s hard to have so much of my breast removed, it doesn’t always look very pretty, especially in sundresses.”
“But the main thing is that I’m alive and I’m here to tell the story.”
Sylvia’s ordeal began in May 2022 when she noticed a lump on her chest that quickly turned into a “painful abscess.”
It became more and more excruciating in the days that followed, even though she was taking a prescription antibiotic from her doctor.
“I was in so much pain,” she said.
“I just knew something was wrong, so I went to the emergency room.”
“When I came in, the nurse looked at me and pushed me straight.
“I was completely gray in the face.” It was really scary.”
Sylvia claims she was “pumped full of medication and painkillers” but nothing helped.
“The doctors were at a loss for a few days, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she added.
After two days at Gilbert Bain Hospital, Sylvia was prepared for surgery to remove the abscess at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
“They put me in an induced coma and I had to undergo two surgeries to remove the flesh-eating bug while I was unconscious,” she said.
“Looking back, I’m actually glad I was unconscious because I think I would have been really traumatized.”
“I was medically quite stable when I came out of the coma, although emotionally I was completely disoriented.”
After three more weeks in the hospital, Sylvia was finally allowed to go home. She returned to work four months later.
She has since raised £2,000 for the Lee Spark Foundation, a charity for necrotizing fasciitis.
Sylvia said, “I don’t always feel good in certain clothes now because a lot of the breasts are missing.” Things don’t quite hang right.
“But I’m so glad I’m still alive after almost failing.” I force myself to think positively.
“I’ve gotten rid of underwired bras completely.” Although we don’t know for sure, I’m sure that was the reason for the whole thing.
“It’s just not worth the risk.”
What is necrotizing fasciitis?
Necrotizing fasciitis is a flesh-eating disease that occurs when a wound becomes infected.
It is rare and needs immediate hospital treatment.
The first signs of the disease are:
- Severe pain or loss of feeling near a cut or wound – the pain can seem much worse than you would normally expect from a cut or wound
- swelling of the skin around the affected area
- Flu-like symptoms such as high fever, headache and fatigue
Later symptoms may include:
- vomiting and diarrhea
- Black, purple, or gray spots and blisters on the skin (these may be less visible on black or tan skin)
You should go to the emergency room or call 999 if you have a cut that’s more painful than expected, if you have a wound and symptoms such as a fever or headache, if you suddenly feel confused, or if you have black, purple, or gray patches in your skin have near a cut or wound.
Necrotizing fasciitis gets worse quickly and can be fatal.
Treatments usually include antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected area.