A young British woman is fighting for life in an Australian hospital after pickling up an ultra-rare strain of blood poisoning – from a stray KITTEN.
Scarlet Goodrich, 22, faces Christmas in a hospital in Melbourne after being struck down with meningitis, blood poisoning and swelling of the brain.
She is critically ill after picking up the illness at a fruit farm where she worked.
Now her friends and family are raising funds for her care, and to bring her home to Teignmouth, Devon, when she is well enough.
When she does fly home, it is likely that she will have to be accompanied by a nurse.
Scarlet has undergone emergency surgery, but her condition has improved since she first went to hospital suffering severe back pain.
She still requires constant care and her brain is being constantly monitored.
She has also had small doses of chemotherapy to try to tackle the toxins attacking her body.
Her uncle, Christian Goodrich, said: “Even when she is well enough to leave hospital, the doctors say her rehabilitation will take a minimum of six months, and could take up to two years.”
Scarlet has been living and working in Australia for the past 15 months on a work visa.
She has been working with an agency which finds work for backpackers doing tasks such as picking fruit.
She went into hospital at the end of November, and her mother Alethea has since flown out to be at her bedside.
Mr Goodrich added: “This has come as such a shock to the family. It’s a very rare and unusual scenario which has baffled the doctors and specialists.
“She had contracted pneumococcal meningitis as well as a mutated strain of toxin plasma.
“She’s also got acute ADEM, which is a swelling of the brain, and last week had to have an emergency operation.
“The doctors think she might have picked up this very rare and unusual toxin from a stray kitten she came into contact with while fruit picking on a farm.
“This week she is doing somewhat better, and making small steps to recovery.
“She has battled through the meningitis and the toxin, so it is mainly the ADEM which doctors are trying to address.”
ADEM is acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord which can lead to seizures and coma. It is normally treated by using anti-inflammatory drugs.
Mr Goodrich added: “Once she is well enough, in the next two to three months, she will hopefully be OK to be flown back to the UK and continue her rehabilitation from her home in Teignmouth, surrounded by her friends and family.”
A JustGiving page has been set up for Scarlet and has so far raised almost £2,000 towards its £3,000 target.
“Lots of her friends and family in Torbay have been raising money in lots of different ways, and sharing across social media,” said Mr Goodrich.
“”She has an amazing medical team around her, and she has some very good friends here in Devon.
“She is making progress in baby steps, but we don’t know what the long-term implications are. None of the doctors has ever come across a case like hers before.”