Pet terrapin puts man’s life at risk with flesh-eating bug

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A HAIRDRESSER almost lost his arm after contracting a potentially fatal flesh eating bacteria from a pet terrapin.

David Lynch caught the bug, which got into a small cut on his finger, while he cleaned out the tank at his men’s hairdressers in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds.

“It was frightening, particularly with the nature of my job.

“At one point they said if the infection didn’t stop spreading and reached my armpit they may have to think about amputating my arm,” he said.

Mr Lynch only returned to work this week – more than three months after his ordeal started.

The 54-year-old cleaned out the tank three days before Christmas, but woke during the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, to find his finger was severely swollen and throbbing.

“The pain was excruciating, I have never known anything like it,” he said.

He rushed to West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury, where he was given antibiotics for an infection and painkillers before he was sent home.

But later that day his condition worsened.

His finger turned black and his arm became swollen and red.

Mr Lynch was admitted to hospital, where he spent six days on a cocktail of intravenous antibiotics. A sample of his blood was sent for analysis and he was then diagnosed with a potentially lethal bacterial infection known as a Group G streptococcal – and the terrapin, called Cosmo, was identified as the culprit.

On Christmas Day, the father of three was taken for an operation, where his hand was opened up to ‘wash-out’ the infection.

He was taken for a second operation and was warned that the doctors might need to amputate his finger.

Instead, the dead flesh on it was removed and he was referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, for reconstructive surgery.

He said his lowest point came during a 10-day wait for this surgery.

“Bits of my finger were falling off each day and I wished I had just had it cut off,” he said.

In February, the bone in his finger became visible and he has since had three skin grafts to correct it.

He has started having occupational therapy to improve the movement in his damaged finger.

Cosmo was originally bought by David for his 15-year-old daughter seven years ago.

But when she lost interest, he took Cosmo to work where he proved a hit with the customers. Now Cosmo has been re-homed through one of David’s customers.

David said: “Any animal that defecates in its own water, like tropical fish, culture these bacteria.

“My advice to anybody who’s got tropical fish, or that type of aquarium, is to wear rubber gloves when you clean them out, feed them or handle them because you never know.”