Real Life

Real life: A paper cut nearly cost me my hand!

No one knew how something so small could be life-threatening.

By As told to Take 5

Ryan Taylor, 26, from the Gold Coast, Qld, shares his shocking true life story:

Warning: This post contains graphic images.

I was flicking through the calendar when I felt the edge of the page slice into my finger.

"Ouch!" I winced, noticing that it had cut my left ring finger so deeply I was bleeding.

Stepping out of my office, I fetched a band aid.

The blood had all dried up a few hours later.

I didn't think any more of it until I woke up with a start at 3am the next morning.

My whole body ached and I was sweating profusely.

Assuming I'd caught the flu, I popped a few painkillers and tried to get back to sleep.

But I was in so much discomfort it was hard to relax.

It felt like I'd just dozed off when my alarm sounded.

In the soft morning light, I took one glimpse at my left hand and recoiled in shock.

It had swollen up to three times that of my right arm!

I was put in the ICU.
I was put in the ICU.

The paper cut was hardly noticeable but my hand was bright red.

My dad was horrified when I showed him.

"You need to get to hospital, mate," he said.

Normally Dad would have come with me, but he'd spent most of this year recovering from throat cancer and was too weak for the journey.

So I booked an Uber and hoped doctors could to do something for the excruciating agony that was spreading through my body.

Worst of all was my left hand, which was aching so intensely I had to hold it to my chest with my right hand.

As soon as doctors saw the size of my arm and the puss that was now oozing out from where I'd cut myself the day before, they whisked me straight into theatre.

"We need you to sign a consent form," they said.

"What for?" I asked.

"Whatever's in your hand is spreading, and travelling fast.

There's a chance we'll have to amputate your arm," a doctor explained. "Every second is vital."

What? I'd just had a paper cut and now they might have to take my left limb?

There wasn't even a chance for me to speak to my parents before I signed and went under the knife.

Waking up hours later, I was groggy and disorientated.

Docs went to great lengths to help me.
Docs went to great lengths to help me.

But the sight of my left arm, covered in bandages, meant that at least I hadn't lost a limb.

Mum and Dad were sitting in the room with me.

"What happened?" I asked.

They didn't know what to say.

After cutting my arm open, not even doctors could be sure what had caused the swelling, so I was placed on a million different antibiotics to try and kill off the infection.

Despite all the heavy drugs I was on, the pain hadn't gone away and I had to stay in ICU.

Blinking with incomprehension I looked around the white walls and wondered if this was really it: was I going to die?

By day two it grew so bad and my arm kept growing bigger, so I was put into an induced coma.

When I woke a day later, my parents' faces were grim.

"You leapt up from the bed at one point," Mum told me. "You woke up and got such a shock at seeing there was a tube down your throat that the doctors had to up the dosage of your medication to keep you asleep."

What?!

Poor Dad was a real sight. "Son, you nearly gave me a heart attack," he said.

All we wanted was answers, but it was days before doctors finally realised I had necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease that could be fatal once it entered the blood stream.

The flesh had been stripped from my hand.
The flesh had been stripped from my hand.

They had to perform 10 separate surgeries to repeatedly cut open my forearm and then vacuum the dead flesh out to stop it from spreading.

I was completely out of it for most of the procedures, but when I saw the massive black scar that had ran down my darkened arm, I started to cry.

"It's like a truck ran over it," I wept.

I wasn't normally one to get this emotional, but the horrifying sight proved just how close I'd come to losing everything.

Each surgery was painful, but the more they sucked out the dead flesh, the brighter my arm grew until the blackness slowly grew lighter and lighter turning pink.

After three weeks in hospital, I was finally allowed home.

While it was a relief to know the operations were all over, nothing was the same anymore.

The angry scar was a reminder that I'd been changed, and things weren't going to go back to normal any time soon.

Even the simplest of things like tying up my shoe laces or put a belt on has become impossible. Mum and Dad have to help me.

As soon as Dad saw my hand he knew I needed help.
As soon as Dad saw my hand he knew I needed help.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to go back to work in my sales job or doing any of the outdoor sports that had always been such a big part of my life.

But strange as it sounds, I feel lucky.

Something as small as a paper cut very nearly killed me, so when I'm better I'm going to travel the world and do all the things I've put off for too long.

My near-death experience taught me just how precious life is, and I don't want to waste a second.

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