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Teenager Abby floored by lung infection after face swelled up

Published 02/01/2016

Abby Harrison thought at first she had an ordinary cough
Abby Harrison thought at first she had an ordinary cough

A teenage girl has spoken of her shock after a cough led to a catastrophic lung infection, causing her entire face to swell up and leaving her struggling to breathe.

Abby Harrison, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, thought at first she had an ordinary cough and began to take cough medicine, but within hours ulcers and cold sores began to appear on her lip, which by that evening had swelled to double its size.

Her eyes were puffy and watery and her throat and jaw had also swollen.

The 15-year-old said: "By the next day the swelling had spread to my other lip and I looked as though I'd had lip fillers and they had burst; my eyelids were all sticky as if I had conjunctivitis and I was in a lot of pain."

Abby was seen by her GP, who referred her to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth for tests.

She said: "I was in the lowest place when I arrived at QA Hospital. I looked an absolute state and was vomiting quite badly despite not eating for several days.

"The doctors asked me to drink a nutrition milkshake but because I hadn't used my throat for several days, it was incredibly painful and took me over an hour to drink."

Tests revealed Abby had an uncommon bacterial infection called mycoplasma that had attached itself to her lungs and was making it difficult for her to even breathe.

She said: "I stayed in hospital for a week and throughout I had to undergo breathing exercises with the physio.

"In everyday life I love make up and taking pride in my appearance, and like most teenage girls I usually get up early to put mascara on for school, so I just couldn't believe what was happening to my face.

"My immune system just went crazy. I couldn't eat, was struggling to breathe, I was in so much pain despite being on morphine and I couldn't bear to look in the mirror - I just didn't recognise myself any more, it was as if my life had changed overnight."

It took four weeks of bed-rest and antibiotics for Abby's face to return to its normal size and she was able to return to school.

She said: "I dance three times a week and take part in show work. Before the infection my dance class were preparing for a theatre production next year, so it was frustrating sitting in hospital knowing that I was missing out on learning the routine. I just wanted my life back."

She added: "I cannot thank the staff at QA Hospital enough. They helped me so much, not only throughout my admission but even after with follow-up appointments.

"They have given me my face back and I cannot thank them enough for that."

Consultant paediatrician Stephen Warriner said: "Mycoplasma is not common but is more prone to teenagers because they tend to be less susceptible to bacteria as they get older.

"Abby was unfortunate in that the infection led to such severe facial swelling, usually symptoms are similar to those of the flu, such as sore throat, headache, weakness, fever, cough, and chills, but now that Abby has fully recovered there should be no reason that she should catch the infection again."

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