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A mum who battled a flesh-eating disease for a decade after a cat scratched her chest had part of her rotting breast replaced with skin from a DEAD BODY.
Theresa Ferris White, 48, from Nova Scotia, Canada, began suffering with Pyoderma Gangrenosum – a deadly auto-immune syndrome – soon after she was clawed by a cat while working in an animal shelter.
An infection rapidly spread across Theresa’s right breast, causing her skin to slide off until doctors replaced it with flesh donated from a human corpse.
Theresa, who was left unable to work as a result of her symptoms, has now spoken out to raise awareness of the condition, which still presents itself in flare-ups.
She said: "This is a very painful disease. It’s a rare condition and it’s hard to go through it by yourself.
"I was working in an animal shelter in 2007 when me and a colleague were trying to dry one of the cats with a towel.
"He started going crazy, clawing my arms and chest, when he caught right breast.
"The next day I noticed a lump on my right breast where the cat had clawed me, I kept an eye on it, as it was starting to get very painful, and next thing I know I ended up in hospital."
Five days after Theresa was scratched by the cat she was admitted to Dartmouth General hospital, in Nova Scotia, and placed on IV antibiotics, when the skin began to blister and fall away from her right breast.
Theresa said: "After I was given an IV drip I was sent home but had to come back to the hospital when I began vomiting, with signs of a fever.
"They decided to operate, which made the wound worse, and my skin and breast tissue began to slide off.
"I spent a month in the hospital, having my daily dressing changes as I was loosing skin and doctors thought I might not pull through.
"It wasn’t until I was seen by more doctors and dermatologists that I was eventually told I had Pyoderma Gangrenosum.
"My right breast was unrecognizable. I had lost all the skin and the top part of the tissue from my breast and it was extremely painful."
Theresa was treated with a long list of medication as well as the procedure to replace her lost skin with that from a deceased human body, meaning the body is less likely to reject the new skin and more likely to heal.
she said: "In April of 2007 I needed to have an XX in order for my skin to grow back again.
"The donated skin from a deceased person was traumatic to have to deal with and the surgery was very painful.
"I have managed to keep the condition under control, treating small flare-ups quickly, but have been left with scarring on my breast.
"I have a hard time with relationships as I am very self-conscious about my appearance now."
Theresa was also diagnosed with PTSD and depression as a result of her PG symptoms but has been supported by her partner, Blaine Cruickshank, 47, and her daughter, Genieve, 31, and son Thomas, 30.
Speaking about Blaine, Theresa said: "He is very supportive of my PG symptoms, depression and PTSD.
"With my second flare up on the right side of my stomach, he actually did all the dressing changes every day.
"He is always telling me I’m beautiful just the way I am and he loves me for me. Always trying to build up my self-esteem.
"My daughter has been there through it all, right from the start of this battle.
"Thomas has had a very hard time dealing with my diagnosis. He didn’t like to see me suffering from this disease but tries very hard to be supportive."
"I was lucky enough to find a dermatologist who specialises in PG and does lectures to help educate other doctors.
"I wish more doctors knew about this disease so people don’t have to suffer as much as I did."
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