A hairdresser who was bitten by a false widow spider while playing with her two sons was just two hours from death when surgeons performed an emergency operation.
Now Andrea Wallace, who is from Seaham in County Durham, has lost the index finger on her left hand and is likely to be left with a vivid scar after the terrifying bite left her with a flesh-eating infection.
44 year-old Andrea received the bite to her finger while playing in a field with her children. At the time she assuming it was a midge bite, but within hours the bite had double in size. Overnight the pain turned into agony and then became unbearable and the wound started to ooze black pus. As skin on Andrea’s began to crack from the swelling, she rushed to her local hospital.
Andrea recalls: “I just couldn’t stand the pain, it had really swollen up, the skin was cracking and there was black pus bursting out of it. You could see the poison tracking up the vein in my arm, the veins were changing colour, it was like something out of a horror film. The doctors told me it was a spider bite because they could see two fang marks. They said if I’d gone to hospital a couple of hours later the poison would have reached my heart and I’d be a goner.”
Andrea spent six weeks in Sunderland’s Royal Hospital while her medical team dried to clear the poison from her system. Then doctors took the decision to transfer Andrea to a Durham hospital and once there she was diagnosed with the sometimes-fatal flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis which had been introduced into her body via the spider bite.
Surgeons operated 14 times in an attempt to save her finger, but finally admitted defeat and amputated. Andrea had previously worked as a hairdresser but now has doubts about being able to go back to her old career:
“I don’t think I’ll be able to return to work. You do need your hands as a hairdresser, although the doctors said I would start using my middle finger more. I guess I’ll just have to get used to using three fingers and a thumb. But it’s a small price to pay. Losing a finger is better that losing my hand or my life, isn’t it?”