New mother left with 10-inch hole in her stomach after getting MRSA from C-section wound - and says she only survived because of COPPER-infused pyjamas
- Gemma Wilby, 30, gave birth to her son Alfie in September 2012
- C-section scar soon became badly infected and she had 10-inch gaping hole
- Despite undergoing life-saving surgery, having maggots placed on the wound to eat away the dead flesh and medication, the infection continued
- Eventually tried copper-infused pyjamas which she says killed the infection
- Chemical has been shown to have anti-bacterial and healing properties
- Pyjamas are now being trialled in hospital in tje fight against superbugs
By Anna Hodgekiss
A new mother nearly died after her C-section wound became infected with MRSA - leaving her with a 10-inch hole across her stomach.
Gemma Wilby, 30, gave birth to her son Alfie in September 2012 in a south London hospital but soon became aware she had contracted an infection.
Despite undergoing life-saving surgery, having maggots placed on the wound to eat away the dead flesh and taking a cocktail of daily drugs, the MRSA could not be brought under control and she was warned she could die.
Lucky to be alive: Gemma Wilby, 30, gave birth to her son Alfie in September 2012 but her C-section wound became infected with MRSA. She believes the only reason she is alive today is due to copper-infused pyjamas which fought the bug, developed by family friend Amber McCleary (left)
She believes the only reason she is here today is because she wore copper-infused pyjamas which killed the infection.
When she arrived at hospital in labour, she was rushed into theatre as she was suffering from compilcations.
Ms Wilby said: 'They told me I would need an emergency C-section but I don’t remember much of it as I was drifting in and out of consciousness.'
Several hours later her son Alfie arrived, weighing 7.6lbs.
‘I was dizzy and exhausted after giving birth,’ said Ms Wilby. 'My C-section scar spread 10 inches from hip to hip and I was in excruciating pain.
'It hurt too much to hold Alfie but nurses gently placed him on me a few hours later. But I didn’t feel great, and I was kept in because my blood counts were abnormally high.'
But it soon became clear that Ms Wilby, who lives with her long-term partner Mark Minick, 31, a chef , had also contracted an infection.
Despite this, 'the hospital has never confirmed where the infection came from and has said there isn’t enough evidence to be sure,' she said.
Lifesaver: Despite undergoing life-saving surgery, having maggots placed on the wound to eat away the dead flesh and taking a cocktail of daily drugs, the MRSA could not be brought under control and Ms Wilby was warned she could die. She believes the only reason she is here today is because she wore copper-infused pyjamas (pictured) which killed the infection
'They told me my scar wasn’t healing properly and I had an open wound, but they didn’t show me it when they changed dressings.
'I had no idea quite how bad things had got - although the overpowering stench of rotting flesh made me realise something was terribly wrong after a few days.
‘I felt really embarrassed and didn’t want my partner coming near me. On top of this, because I was on a cocktail of antibiotics I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed Alfie and I could barely hold him for longer than a few seconds because of the pain. It was horrible.’
On 25 September, 20 days after giving birth, Ms Wilby was discharged from hospital with Alfie. At this point, she still didn’t know what the infection was.
But a day later, a district nurse visiting her was so concerned she sent her back to her GP, who told her she needed urgent treatment.
Ms Wilby said: 'By now, none of the antibiotics were working and the wound had doubled in size. My GP said to go straight back to the hospital as an emergency as it had all the signs of MRSA.
‘You could smell me from 10 feet away. We knew in our hearts that this wasn’t just an infection, it was more sinister.’
MRSA: At its worst, the infection left Ms Wilby with a 10-inch gaping hole. She was only discharged once it got to this stage
Too scared to return to the original hospital she’d been a patient at, she underwent life-saving treatment at East Surrey Hospital on October 6, 2012.
After the surgery, she was kept in hospital for five days while doctors monitored her recovery.
She was even given maggot therapy - where live maggots were placed in the open wound to eat away the dead flesh - but the infection was so severe the maggots died.
By this time, a family friend had heard about Ms Wilby's condition and said copper might be able to help.
Amber McCleary, 18, had spent 18 months researching antimicrobial fabric testing and had carried out various lab tests which proved bacteria couldn’t survive on copper.
With this in mind, she approached UK inventor Paula Ward and the pair produced a pair of copper-infused pyjamas for her friend.
Ms Wilby said: ‘Amber brought me copper PJs, bedding, socks and a hospital gown - and all had been lab proven to be anti MRSA.
'At first I was sceptical about the copper-infused PJs, but within a a couple days I felt much better and noticed the open wound was decreasing in size.
‘It was incredible. The nurses took swabs from my stomach daily and they always came back infected with MRSA, but a few days after wearing the copper-infused clothing, they came back negative.
'They couldn’t believe it and thought there had been a mistake. They took another one just to be double check. To our amazement, it was negative! The infection was gone and the open wound was shrinking. We were lost for words. It was at that point I knew I wasn’t going to die.’
‘You wouldn’t think something so simple could make such a huge difference but I could feel the difference in my skin almost overnight. Instead of feeling lethargic I felt brighter, more alert and healthier. More importantly, I was healing. It was a miracle.’
In the days and weeks that followed, she ontinued to ‘live in’ her copper pyjamas and nurses commented on how quickly she was healing and were positive the nightwear was behind her speedy recovery.
Surgery: Ms Wilby underwent life-saving surgery at a different hospital, East Surrey, as doctors battled to fight the superbug ravaging her body
‘I cherished them after that,’ says Ms Wilby. ‘I wouldn’t take them off. Medics said it would take me a year to recover but by Christmas, less than two months later, I was back on my feet and feeling normal again. Copper is known for its healing powers and it really accelerated the process for me.’
As part of their research, Copper Clothing (the company formed by Ms Ward and Ms McCleary) collected a 1cm square sample of Ms Wilby's NHS gown and another from the copper infused material.
Both were washed at 65 degrees and sent away to be tested under stringent 'MRSA protocol' in a laboratory.
After 24 hours, over 400 million superbug bacteria were picked up on the NHS fabric whereas the copper-infused material had no superbug bacteria.
Over the years, copper oxide has become an increasingly popular component in health products because of its natural anti-microbial and healing properties. Already, in countries such as Japan, hospital staff and patients wear copper-infused clothing as a matter of course.
Now, one year on, Croydon University Hospital is clinically trialling the pioneering clothing after hearing Ms Wilby's success story - believing it could revolutionise the NHS, who are fighting an ongoing battle against increasingly antibiotic resistant superbugs such as MRSA.
Pioneering: Amber Cleary spent 18 months researching antimicrobial fabric testing and had carried out various lab tests which proved bacteria couldn¿t survive on copper
Mr Abdul Sultan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Croydon University Hospital, said: 'This clothing may have the potential to make a real difference to the way in which we treat ulcers and infection in patients, based on the research I have seen which was available on the subject.
'We believe that the laboratory-based research looked very promising and there is now a need for controlled clinical trials. We are in the process of setting up a clinical trial to establish the medical medical benefits of this clothing.'
Ms Wilby said: ‘Hospitals up and down the country should make copper-infused clothing and bedding mandatory for all staff and patients.
'I was so terrified I was going to die I couldn’t bond with my newborn baby. Every time I looked at him, I wondered if he’d soon be motherless. It was a horrific time and I honestly believe that I owe my life to the PJs.
‘If it hadn’t have been for them, I don’t think I’d be here today. I had maggots placed into my stomach to eat away the rotting flesh and surgery to cut away at it, but it only really improved when I started wearing the PJS. I wouldn’t take them off after that.’
Ms Wilby is now back working as a barmaid and is enjoying motherhood.
‘I don’t take anything for granted now,’ she says, ‘I appreciate every second with my partner and son and don’t worry about the small things anymore. I don’t want anybody to go through what I did and that’s why I’ve chosen to speak out.'