A university student nearly lost her leg to sepsis after contracting a nasty infection from standing on a sea urchin.
Phoebe Robertson, 21, noticed her left foot ballooned after brushing against the flower-like creature while swimming on a family holiday in Barbados last October.
She was prescribed antibiotics at a hospital on the Caribbean island and returned to the UK a week later.
But the modern languages student’s condition quickly deteriorated when the infection in her calf invaded her bloodstream, causing deadly sepsis.
Ms Robertson, from Canterbury, Kent, had to relearn how to walk and came close to losing her leg after catching the infection in her calf.
Phoebe from Canterbury, Kent, nearly lost her leg to sepsis after contracting a nasty infection from standing on a sea urchin on holiday in Barbados
She noticed her left foot had started to swell up after she stepped on a sea urchin while on a holiday in Barbados in October 2018
A year on from her ordeal, she is raising awareness about sepsis as she prepares to run the Madrid Half-Marathon in March 2020 on behalf of the UK Sepsis Trust.
Ms Robertson said: ‘I am young, active and healthy, so when I stood on that sea urchin and the swelling began I didn’t think anything of it at first.
‘When you’re young, you feel invincible. So I didn’t think there was anything wrong and that something like this couldn’t happen.
‘But my experience just goes to show that anyone can get sepsis. It could happen to anyone.
‘One of the nurses described me as the “unluckiest miracle”. I’m unlucky because I stood on that sea urchin and for what followed, but I’m so lucky that I’m still here.’
Ms Robertson spent around a month in hospital and had to relearn how to walk again after doctors performed four operations in seven days on her left leg in a bid to stop the infection, leaving her with lifelong scars.
But despite her horrific ordeal, Phoebe managed to complete her second year of her Modern Languages degree and even wrote some of her essays while recovering.
Her ordeal began after she trod on a sea urchin while on a holiday in Barbados.
A week later and having returned to the UK, Phoebe began to feel unwell.
She said: ‘I was on the beach one day and stepped on a sea urchin. I didn’t think anything of it really.
‘Two days later I noticed my feet were starting to swell up. It got to the point where I couldn’t even walk.
‘I went to a doctor who gave me some alcohol wipes and antibiotics. My feet got better within five days and then I flew home.’
Phoebe returned to university, but within a few days began to feel unwell again.
She said: ‘I went back to uni and my parents were coming down the following weekend which was the weekend of Remembrance Sunday.
‘I woke up that day and really struggled to function. I couldn’t work out what was happening and I remember feeling quite sweaty.
‘I was supposed to go to the rugby with them but I had to go home and spent the whole day throwing up.
‘On the Sunday morning I got up and noticed there was something wrong with my leg. I just thought it was really bad cramp.
‘I slept through the rest of the day, and that night, my leg just went solid. It was incredibly painful, I’ve never known anything like it.
‘Eventually I screamed at my housemates that something was wrong and they drove me straight to A&E and carried me in.’
Despite a nurse saying Phoebe probably had severe flu and should go home, she insisted that she did not feel right and was given a blood test.
It was then that doctors realised that Phoebe was in the grip of a severe infection in her left calf, invasive streptococcus A, which quickly led to her developing full blown sepsis.
Doctors even told Phoebe there was a high chance they would have to amputate her left leg to hault the spread of the infection.
But her condition gradually stabilised and after around a month in hospital, she was discharged.
Despite her recovery, Phoebe has still had two reoccurrences of infection in her leg that left her bed ridden and on a cocktail of antibiotics.
Phoebe surpassed doctors expectations and relearnt how to walk in one month rather than the six that doctors predicted it would take her.
Phoebe said: ‘It was really difficult, I couldn’t do anything for myself.
‘I had to relearn how to walk again and use my left leg.
‘It was tough because I’ve always been quite active and suddenly I couldn’t do anything for myself. If I wanted to shower, I had to ask my parents to help me.
‘The doctors and nurses were fantastic and the care I received from the NHS was amazing.
‘It was easy to get depressed and give up. I thought I should just drop out of university but I wanted to carry on.
‘I still can’t feel my left leg even now. I’m pretty fit but it can affect daily life.
‘I also have scars on my left leg. In comparison to other people’s scars they’re not that bad but people do stare at it.’
Phoebe added: ‘It’s changed my view of the world. Life is short and you need to treasure every moment.
‘It brought my family even closer together. I appreciate the small things so much more, life is really short so you need to enjoy it.’
Phoebe is raising money on GoFundMe for the UK Sepsis Trust by running the Madrid Half Marathon in March 2020.
You can donate to her appeal here