A West Country cat owner who attempted to de-flea her 10-month-old Persian cat by bathing it was left hospitalised for six days.
When Lesley Pleasant, of Shepton Mallet spotted flea dirt on her daughter’s cat, Oscar, she decided it was time to take action.
“He doesn’t like to be groomed, so I decided I’d try to give him a bath first - I have another Persian, and a dog, and they are both fine with being bathed, but Oscar really wasn’t.
“He flew up my arm, and my daughter had to ease his claws out of my skin.
“I was covered in scratches, but one, on the inside of my elbow was really deep. It hurt like anything, but it didn’t bleed, so I just got on with my day.”
But at 10pm that night, Lesley woke up feeling unwell.
“I’ve never felt like that before,” she said. “I had this terrible headache, and I couldn’t move my arm. I had a really high temperature, and all I could think of was that I wouldn’t be able to work in the garden in the morning if I couldn’t move my arm.”
By 2am, she was feeling worse and by 3am, she couldn’t get out of bed.
“About 5am, I used my mobile phone to call my daughter, who sleeps in the room next to me. I said I wasn’t feeling well and asked if she’d bring me a cup of tea and some paracetamol.
“My arm had swollen up and looked like one of those long, sausage balloons you get.”
A swelling like this, away from the original site of injury, is a typical symptom of septicaemia, or blood poisoning.
It occurs when bacteria multiply in the blood, causing widespread inflammation.
If not treated promptly, septic shock can develop, where bacterial toxins cause blood pressure to plummet.
Eventually, the organs start to fail, and it results in death in more than half of patients. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream via open surgery and tooth abscesses, as well as burns — and scratches.
“Once the paracetamol started to work, I felt well enough to drive myself to hospital - except that the hospital was closed. So I had to go back home and wait a few more hours for it to open.”
Arriving at the hospital, she was seen quickly, before being transferred to Bath Royal United Hospital.
“My friend drove me,” Lesley said.
“I threw up in the car all the way there. When I arrived in A&E, they whisked me through straight away, got me into a bed and put me on a drip.”
The drip which should have helped, instead brought her out in a rash, and there was no real improvement in her condition.
“It made me itch like anything, and I couldn’t move to scratch,” Lesley said.
Three days later, doctors established she had a penicillin allergy, and after a change of medication, Lesley was finally back on the mend, and after six days in hospital, was allowed back home.
“I was taking 16 pills a day when I got back, but now I’m back to full-health.
“I can’t thank the staff at Bath enough - they were just wonderful. You hear so many bad things about hospitals, but they were all lovely.”
Lesley said she has now forgiven Oscar.
“If I had any sense, I would have gone and got treatment right after the scratch,” she said.
“But he is just himself - completely unaware of the chaos he caused.
“And from now on, my cats are having their flea treatments by injection - it’s so much easier.”