Car salesman thought he had pulled a muscle... in fact he had contracted a deadly flesh-eating disease

Mr Elliott

Mr Elliott of Ipswich is recovering from a rare flesh eating virus, which nearly killed him

When Gavin Elliott felt a twinge in his side, he assumed he had pulled a muscle.

Even when the pain became excruciating, he refused to see a doctor as he thought he would be wasting their time.

In the end it was his wife, Sarah, who persuaded him to go to his local A&E - a move which saved his life.

Doctors swiftly diagnosed a deadly flesh-eating bug and Mr Elliott was rushed into surgery for a three-hour operation to cut away infected areas across his back and abdomen.

The 34-year-old's life hung in the balance afterwards and surgeons had to wait before going ahead with another major operation to perform a skin graft.

'There was a red mark under my armpit and I had a pain in my left side. We'd been out with friends the night before and I just thought I'd pulled a muscle,' the car parts salesman said yesterday.

'At that stage - on the Sunday night - I didn't panic but by the Monday when I was getting ready for work, it was getting worse and worse.

'It was one of those typical situations, being male, that I didn't want to ring up and bother the hospital. Thankfully, Sarah persuaded me to go to A&E and it's a good job
she did.

'They gave me morphine to control the pain but it had no effect. The doctors knew something was terribly wrong and they did lots of tests.

'Luckily, the surgeon who did the operation had seen it before and knew exactly what it was so they rushed me into theatre.

'They cut open my chest and removed a lot of skin from my back and side. When I came out I was on life support for quite a while.'

Mrs Elliott, 32, said: 'I just had a feeling that there was something seriously wrong. That's why I made him go to A&E.

'They did every test you could think of and six hours later he was out of theatre and in the intensive care unit on life support.

'It was really touch and go for quite some time. The nurses even took me aside and said I should expect the worst. They didn't think he would make it through the night.'

She added: 'It's amazing how quickly it spread. If Gavin had gone to work, I dread to think what might have happened.'

Gavin Elliott

At one point nurses thought Gavin Elliott would not make it through the night

The couple, who live in Ipswich, went to their local hospital on June 2 and the first operation took place as soon as necrotising fasciitis was diagnosed.

Mr Elliott recovered in intensive care for a week before having skin from his legs grafted on to his torso.

He left hospital on July 2 - in time for his first wedding anniversary five days later - but after a fortnight began complaining of stomach pains.

Tests revealed he had contracted the clostridium difficile superbug and his colon was close to bursting.

He spent 10 days in Ipswich Hospital and has only recently returned home.

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare condition of the deeper layers of the skin and tissues and requires immediate medical treatment, usually involving amputation. Around one in three sufferers do not survive.

It can be caused by many types of bacteria but most commonly Streptococcus A, which usually causes throat infections but can have devastating effects if it enters the bloodstream through a cut or rash.

David Rae, the consultant who diagnosed Mr Elliott's condition and performed the first procedure, said it may never be known how he caught the bug.

'He's on medication for another condition and that cocktail of drugs may have suppressed his immune system,' he said.

Describing the operation, Mr Rae added: 'He had a huge area removed - the infection was galloping - leaving just the muscle exposed.

'What Mr Elliott went through was horrific. Everyone who looked after him has commented on how courageous he was.'

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