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Backpacker’s brain illness may have been caused by spider

A rare blood disease that left a British backpacker needing chemotherapy may have been caused by a spider, her father has revealed. 

Scarlet Goodrich from Teignmouth, Devon, was working on a fruit farm in Victoria, Australia, when she contracted a bacterial infection that caused brain swelling.

The 22-year-old required emergency surgery to battle the illness, which doctors previously believed was caused by a stray kitten’s scratch.

Scarlet Goodrich was left in critical condition after she contracted an infection while backpacking in Australia 

But her father, Greg Pannell, has revealed a bite from a deadly spider could instead be behind her critical illness days after the sickness caused vital organs to begin shutting down.

Mr Pannell, 43, said he wished to trade places with his daughter the moment he heard she was ill and flew from Devon to Melbourne to be by her side. 

‘While there has been speculation about a stray cat, it was also mentioned to me that a few months ago Scarlet was bitten by a spider,’ he said.

‘They are not certain what kind of spider it was, but I immediately relayed it to the hospital. They said they were looking at that aspect also.

The 22-year-old's organs began to shut down leaving her in need of emergency surgery while she was on holiday

The 22-year-old’s organs began to shut down leaving her in need of emergency surgery while she was on holiday

‘It was extremely distressing to see your child in a condition like that. I burst into tears when I got the call.

‘I was just wishing I could trade places with her, I would do in a heartbeat. Her welfare is obviously my main concern, I came here as soon as it was possible.’

Mr Pannell added he is delighted at his daughter’s recovery after she woke up in time for Christmas. 

‘To see her progress this week has been relieving,’ he said. ‘She’s able to talk and has some movement back and I can see each day.’

Ms Goodrich had been working in Australia for the past 15 months for an agency that arranges work including fruit picking.

Her father dropped her at the airport last year when she was setting off on her holiday.

Ms Goodrich's father revealed that a deadly spider's bite could have been behind her near-fatal infection

Ms Goodrich’s father revealed that a deadly spider’s bite could have been behind her near-fatal infection

But tragedy struck late in November when she was rushed to hospital with crippling back pain and her condition spiralled.

Last Sunday the swelling caused her vital functions to shut down before she underwent emergency surgery.

But she has since taken steps to recovery and despite being rattled by the ordeal, Ms Goodrich is now able to talk.

Yesterday, her uncle Christian Goodrich, from Gloucester, revealed the 22-year-old had woken up.

‘She’s got a load road ahead of her, it could be months before she makes it out of hospital,’ he said.

‘Over the past week things have been more positive. She’s been quite distressed, but she is more coherent, and she very much has kept her sense of humour.

‘The swelling was particularly bad last week. The scans on her vitals went downhill and she was taken into the operating theatre. It was a very scary time.

‘It’s still very serious and there are lots of tests yet to come back. She has a long road ahead of her.’