Doctors told Tom Barnes that he would never work again. The smile says it all.
Doctors told Tom Barnes that he would never work again. The smile says it all. Jonno Colfs

"I survived a flesh eating disease": Warwick man tells all

WHEN Emu Vale man Tom Barnes contracted a rare and deadly flesh-eating illness, doctors were sure he wouldn't pull through.

Against all odds, he not only survived but also defied further predictions he would never return home or work again.

Tom contracted necrotising fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating bacterial condition that can enter the body through a break in the skin or from an insect bite.

If left untreated, the bacteria can eat away at the skin and lead to permanent disfigurement, gangrene and stress on the body's organs.

Six months later, Tom is back home and enjoying life again.

He has also returned to his part-time at Olsens Produce, a job he's held for about six years.

In September 2016, Tom said he knew something wasn't right.

"I'd been crook for about a week," he said.

"And I didn't realise I looked so bad.

"It was like I'd eaten way too much spicy Mexican food.

The symptoms got worse and on Sunday, September 11, Tom couldn't take it any more.

"Usually I'd head to the chemist and get some antibiotics but something was wrong," he said.

"I drove to Warwick Hospital and they admitted me overnight.

"The next morning Dr Hughes took one look at my rear end and told me I was going straight to Toowoomba.

Tom said things took a turn for the worse on the way to Toowoomba.

"At East Greenmount I started sweating and went white," he said.

"When I got to St Andrew's the doctors grabbed my phonebook and were trying to reach my sister, my next of kin.

"They couldn't get on to her and they told me they just had to go, to operate."

The doctor told Tom if they'd have waited any longer he would have died.

Tom said doctors needed to remove a large portion of his buttock area to remove the virus.

"That night I slipped into a coma and the doctor told my sister Robyn they would call her when I was gone," he said.

"That's how confident they were.

"The next night they gave me 10% and when I came out of the coma a week later they were giving me a 50/50 chance of survival."

Tom said he was grateful his sister was on hand when he came out of the coma.

"It was like Star Wars in there; wires and flashing lights everywhere," he said.

"It was good she was there to settle me down."

After a few more weeks Tom was moved to St Andrew's in Ipswich, closer to his family.

"At six weeks I started rehab, which was great after five weeks of lying on my back," he said.

"I spent eight weeks in hospital all up, then three more at my sister's place.

"Three months after they thought I would die, I was back at home.

"Then back at work a couple of months after that."

Tom said he liked getting back to business and working again.

"At least you know you're still capable," he said.

"If I have a bad day I think of all those people in hospital who won't be working again."

Tom said the doctors couldn't tell him how he picked up the virus.

"Nobody really knows where it comes from, but it's gone," he said.

"But I know for sure now how important my friends and family are to me.

"I thank them all for their support and help.

"They jumped in and did everything without being asked.

"Work is good and all, but friends and family are everything."


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