A mother has told how she nearly died after developing a flesh-eating bug – on her vagina.
Tammy Peel, 39, was admitted to hospital after developing a cyst on her groin area which became septic.
Medics rushed the mother-of-three to hospital in January to burst the cyst.
But they quickly discovered that she was suffering with sepsis along with necrotising fasciitis – a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin – which can be fatal.
During the four-hour surgery, tissue from the labia, part of her thigh, up to her belly had to be removed to stop the spread of the disease.
Mum to two boys, aged 21 and 20, and a 12-year-old daughter, Tammy said: “I suffer from type 2 diabetes, and as a result occasionally have cysts develop.
“Diabetes is a debilitating illness and people can die of the ramifications just like me.
“I want people to know what I went through and help others who have had similar experiences.”
She tells how her husband of 24 years, Simon, 42, has stood by her side all the way despite the devastating condition.
And despite having to give up sex for three months while her vagina healed, the couple are still able to be intimate.
Tammy, from Essex, was left suffering with chronic back pain after giving birth to her third child through a cesarean 12 years ago.
She said: “Something went wrong while I was giving birth to my daughter.
“She was born a picture of health, weighing 6lbs9. But I was far from fine.
“When I tried to get up after the surgery, I put one foot in front of the other and was hit with a searing pain.
“Taking steps was impossible and just like that I was left disabled.”
In the year after her daughter’s birth, Tammy was hit with a debilitating depression.
She said: “I used to be such an active person, and just like that, I was in a wheelchair, unable to walk.”
Her depression led her to eating an unhealthy diet – including for several weeks eating only ice cream.
Tammy quickly gained weight and within a year the 4ft9 mum’s weight had crept up to 22st and had a dangerously high BMI of 66.6.
The mum was so overweight that she had to be lifted out of the house by four men just to attend a hospital appointment.
She said: “My world felt as if it had ended and the only way that I could deal with what I was faced with was by eating.”
At the peak of her weight increase, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
She said: “Being diagnosed with diabetes was a shock to me and made me realise that I needed to sort myself out.”
The mum began eating a healthier diet and shedding weight despite her inactivity.
This year, she tipped the scales at a healthier 12st.
But despite the weight loss, Tammy’s nightmare was only just beginning in January of this year.
She said: “I noticed that I had a boil on my groin, which isn’t uncommon as a diabetes sufferer.
“When I first noticed it, I thought that it deserved some antibiotics as it looked a bit angry so I went straight to the doctor.
“Another day went by and there was fluid leaking from the boil, so I went back to the doctor and they sent me straight to hospital.
“The medic at the hospital said that it was an abscess and they would need to take me into surgery to have it drained.
“Ever since giving birth to my daughter, I had a massive fear of hospitals so decided to go home before the surgery the next day.”
During the routine procedure, medics realised that her condition was far worse than they had anticipated and she was suffering from necrotising fasciitis.
The bacterial disease can start from a relatively minor injury, such as a small cut, but gets worse very quickly and can be life-threatening if not recognised and treated early on.
People who suffer from diabetes are at risk from such infections because their condition weakens their immune system.
Surgeons had to rush to remove the tissue from Tammy’s labia, part of her thigh, up to her belly had to be removed to stop the spread of the disease.
Tammy said: “When I woke up I was in the most extreme pain ever.
“A doctor sat me down and told me that they had to remove tissue from all my groin area, right down my leg and up to my belly.
“I was reeling. I felt as if what defined me as a woman had been completely taken away.”
Tammy was discharged from hospital early and treated with daily visits by a nurse to clean the wound.
For eight weeks, Tammy was bed-bound until the wound had healed.
She said: “It was such a horrible thing to go through.
“I was upset that it had happened, that I nearly died and feared that my husband and I might never be able to have sex again.
“I was mortified about what happened and too embarrassed to tell anyone. I wouldn’t even look at the wound myself.”
By May, Tammy said that her wound had healed enough for her husband and her to be intimate again.
She said: “Thankfully we have found a way. It’s important we take it slow but we are optimistic about the future.
“I am so grateful for my husband and everything that he’s put up with over the past few years.
“He’s worth his weight in gold, platinum. For him to still be here after everything that has happened means everything to me.
“My vagina will never be the same again but I’m learning to accept to work with what I’ve got.”