In 2012, a 39-year-old mother of three ignored a painful ear rash and get on with her busy day. This decision had devastating effects and led to her inability to swallow for almost four years. Her story serves as a timely reminder to always have rashes and changes in your body checked by a doctor.
Daily Mail reports that Samantha Anderson, from Brisbane, woke one morning and choked on her breakfast. As a small business owner she didn’t have time to see a doctor so ignored these alarm bells and continued working. By lunch and even dinner she still couldn’t swallow her food.
She decided to sleep it off and told Daily Mail Australia, “At first when I went to bed I thought to myself ‘I am going wake up tomorrow and eat breakfast like a normal person.'”
It would be another two days before she sought medical advice from a doctor.
She was initially miss diagnosed with stress and then depression. But Ms Anderson noticed a rash behind her ear a few days earlier, which she had put cold sore cream on.
This rash turned out to be Shingles, although it temporarily disappeared from the cold sore ointment, the virus itself was still wreaking havoc internally.
“The rash just looked like 50 tiny coldsores so I put some cream on it and didn’t think much of it because after a few days it went away,” she said.
She wants to use this as a warning for others to not ignore symptoms, saying that if she had her ear looked at and a correct diagnosis made from that, she probably would have been fine within days.
“‘I was never the kind of person to rush to the doctors, but that isn’t brave it is stupid,” she said.
According to Health Direct Australia, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which is the same one that causes chickenpox. It develops an itchy, blistering rash usually first seen on the face, chest, back, abdomen or pelvis.
It is extremely common in Australia, being especially concerning for those over the age of 50. Approximately 1 in 100 Australians older than 50 will have shingles at some stage in their life.
As it is a viral infection there is no cure, but if it treated with antiviral medication within three days of the rash appearing the impact can be lessened and may prevent complications.
Unfortunately Samantha did not recognise symptoms and she suffered for six months without knowing what was causing her symptoms, chocking 60 to 80 times per day and losing a staggering 45kgs.
Eventually she was tested for shingles after doctors asked about any rashes she may have noticed on her body before other symptoms.
She has suffered through years of being unable to swallow, had to be fed through a peg connected to a container for over a year, and will never be able to swallow the same again.
Her story comes as a timely reminder to always seek medical advice if you notice changes in your body.
More information on shingles symptoms can be found at shingles.com.au