Suzanne Lawson

My Name is Suzanne Lawson age 54 and I live in Victoria, Australia, and I am thankful to say that I am a survivor of NF. In September 2009 my husband and I left Australia for a 3 week holiday in Egypt, Israel and Jordan. On our second day in Egypt we visited the Pyramids and during a ride on a Camel I was bitten on the thigh by another camel tethered to mine!! Quite an incredible story I know! I was taken to hospital and the wound was cleaned as best it could be, as it was very deep. In fact, they started to stitch the wound up when a head doctor came by and told them to remove the stitches as an animal bite needs to be left open for 14 days. I was given rabies vaccine, tetanus and antibiotics (these were deemed useless by Australian Doctors) and told that the wound had to be cleaned and dressed every day for the next 14 days. Now this was a disaster for our trip as we were due to head into the Sinai Peninsula that day and be nowhere near any hospitals. I could hardly walk and was bandaged from knee to upper thigh. Overnight the wound bled and I had a fever. I also suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis and take immune suppressants to control it. I have since found out that having a compromised immune system is another factor in NF. By early the next morning in consultation with our travel insurance we decided we should return home. After another visit to the hospital for a wound dressing we were flown home and were back in Australia within 60 hours of the bite. Apart from my leg being very stiff and sore I did not have any other symptoms. Because I had been traveling for about 20 hours my daughter had arranged for me to have another wound dressing on the way home from the airport at the hospital where she worked. It was here my celebrity status commenced as NOBODY had ever heard of someone being bitten by a camel!! The young female doctor who treated me was thorough and I owe my life to her careful diagnosis. She took swabs, blood, and gave me further rabies shots. She did not disclose that she suspected NF but told me that I needed urgent surgery to thoroughly clean the wound. I was not allowed home but was admitted that evening and was scheduled for surgery at 8am next morning. Prior to my surgery the Plastic surgeon was very grave and it was then that I realised just how serious this was. I had debridement at 8am then had a further debridement at 6pm to try and halt the infection. I awoke from surgery with a vac machine attached, IV tubes etc. I was treated with 2 very strong IV antibiotics and the daily care of a Specialist in Infectious Diseases. At the first dressing change which was 2 days after the surgery I was shocked to see how much of my leg was missing! The next 2 weeks are ones I do well to forget with excruciatingly painful dressing changes every 2 days, IV antibiotics, nausea, pain medication, endless injections & sleepless nights with the vac machine. At 2 weeks the doctors were sufficiently happy that the infection was under control and my wound had grown upwards enough to now have a skin graft. This was taken from my other leg. The vac machine was again my constant companion for another 7 days on my skin graft but thankfully did not have to be removed as before. I had now moved to oral antibiotics. I was discharged from hospital after 4 weeks - on a walking frame, and I later moved to crutches. My wound required daily dressings for the next 6 weeks. By Christmas I was walking unaided and gaining more strength. I have the traditional 'shark bite' wound but because it is above my knee it can be hidden with clothing. I feel thankful that we made the decision to return home so promptly as I feel certain had I stayed I would not have returned alive. I thank God for aiding my recovery.