Michelle’s Story :“I’m scared that a new partner would be off by the skin on my legs and feet.”
Two and a half years ago, 37-year-old Michelle almost died. She’d been battling what she thought was a cold for five days, she’d felt exhausted and dizzy, with hot and cold flushes and headaches. She even lost her voice at one point, but the normally healthy single mum carried on.juggling her busy job in outpatient care with looking after her daughter Kira, 9.But when Michelle woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t move her legs, she knew something was seriously wrong. Terrified, she called an ambulance – but when the paramedics arrived, she couldn’t get out of bed and had to crawl to the door.
“In the back of the ambulance, I watched a purply rash forming all over my legs,” she says. “I knew the medics must think it was serious because they blue-lighted me to the hospital.”
Doctors quickly diagnosed Michelle with meningococcal septicemia (blood poisoning), and gave her just a 25%,chance of survival.”I was delirious from the pain, but I remember them telling,me I needed to make plans for after my death,” Michelle says sadly. “I lay there in terror, trying to decide what would be best for my little girl. My friends brought her in to see me, but I told them to take her away I didn’t want her to remember me like that.”
As Michelle’s organs began to shut down one-by-one, doctors placed her in a medically induced coma in an attempt to save her life. Friends and family prepared for the worst. Miraculously, Michelle woke up two and a half weeks
“I was so confused and couldn’t remember what had happened,” she says. “I remember the horror as I looked down at my legs they were bandaged up but my toes were poking out and I could see they’d gone black.”
What Michelle didn’t realise was that the flesh on the toes had died as a result of the infection. As they began to fall off, doctors took the decision to amputate them, and for a time it looked like she would also lose an arm and a leg. Luckily, her limbs were saved, but Michelle spent three months in hospital recovering.
When she was discharged she faced another battle, her ex-husband, who’d left when Kira was just six months old, had gained custody of their daughter and refused to give her back. As she slowly learnt to walk again, Michelle was also embroiled in a legal fight to bring her daughter home.
“My morale was really, really low,” she recalls. “All I wanted was to be with my daughter, but I was also facing hours of physio.”
Eventually, Michelle was able to walk again, but she lost a fifth of the skin on her legs, and was left with severe scarring and just two toes. A judge ruled that Michelle should have full-time custody of her daughter, so Kira now regularly travels to London from Bristol to stay with her dad. Michelle has gradually rebuilt her life, and says that, in many ways, she is happier and more positive than ever knowing how close she came to death has made her value life more than ever.
But there’s one thing still missing: a partner.
“I’d love to meet someone special, remarry and have more children,” says Michelle, “but my condition has left me quite self-conscious about having a physical relationship.
“I’m scared that, even if I tell somebody about the skin on my legs and feet, when it comes down to it, they’d be put off. If someone complimented me I probably wouldn’t believe them anyway.”
Michelle has started the dating process, and has been on a few dates and is always open about her condition. Although she’s yet to meet anyone special, she hasn’t fallen victim to any negative reactions and says going on dates is slowly starting to build up her confidence.
A partner would be the icing on the cake for Michelle, but she knows that the world can change at any moment, and relishes her happy and busy life with Kira.
Abbie’s story: Having an ileostomy bag
Abbie, 22, suffers from debilitating Crohn’s Disease , a condition which leaves her exhausted and in pain, as well as forcing her to follow a strict diet with no alcohol. Not being able to party with her fellow students has made life difficult for her, and she admits it means her love life is ‘practically non-existent’. She also has to wear an external ileostomy bag on her abdomen which collects her faeces, and this makes her feel uncomfortable about having a relationship.
Chloe’s story: Having to wear a wig –
Twenty nine-year-old beauty therapist Chloe has suffered from alopecia for 15 years. She covers up with glamorous wigs, but feels very uncomfortable revealing her condition to dates after several unsuccessful romances. Chloe is actively dating and is determined to stay positive.
Verona’s story: Having excess skin
Verona feels conscious about her excess skin after losing 7 stones. Verona, 27, lost an impressive seven stone in a year after a gastric bypass, but has been left with loose skin on her stomach, arms and thighs. She feels incredibly self conscious about her skin, to the extent that the thought of physical intimacy fills her with dread. The administrative assistant and mum-of-two hopes she can find a man who’ll look past this one day.