Parents' warning: Schoolgirl almost needed leg amputated after thorn scratch

·5-min read
Schoolgirl Annabelle Newman almost needed to have her leg amputated following a thorn scratch. (Caters)
Schoolgirl Annabelle Newman almost needed to have her leg amputated following a thorn scratch. (Caters)

When her daughter scratched her leg on a thorn during a forest walk, Charlene Kirby didn't expect that weeks later her seven-year-old would be in hospital with doctors considering amputating her leg.

Annabelle Newman is still in hospital after a three-millimetre thorn scratch she obtained in April caused an infection.

Initially Kirby, 30, from Pembrey, Wales, didn't think anything of the scratch, but around a week later her daughter's skin became blotchy.

Newman has been in hospital since 5 May. She has had seven operations and has been left with 11 wounds on her leg which were made in a bid to remove the infected flesh and rid her body of the infection.  

“I never thought Annabelle would be at risk of losing a limb from a thorn," Kirby explains. 

“She was fully dressed but it pierced through her uniform when she was playing in the forest at school.

“She came home complaining of a sore knee which is when I spotted the thorn.

“We pulled it out, but I never thought anything of it, as these types of things happen all of the time to children.

“But a week later, she developed a rash and puss started coming out of the wound."

Annabelle's leg one week after the thorn was pulled from her knee. (Caters)
Annabelle's leg one week after the thorn was pulled from her knee. (Caters)

The family visited the GP twice and Newman was prescribed antibiotics, but they didn't seem to help and on 5 May her skin turned "grey" and she needed emergency care.

An ultrasound revealed the infection had spread from her knee to her foot and near her groin.

The schoolgirl has since endured seven operations to remove the flesh and clear the abscesses, leaving her with 11 wounds.

“The last few weeks have been torture," Kirby continues. 

“She has been in a lot of pain and unable to move her leg."

Kirby and Newman's dad, Oscar Newman, 30, have been taking it in turns to stay with their daughter in hospital.

“It’s been heartbreaking for both of us, as she is a cheerful little girl who’s usually running around," Kirby says. 

“Seeing her stuck in bed and scared has been horrible

"She will be left with scars as they made 11 holes to try and swab and clear up the infection.

"The surgeon couldn't believe how infected her leg was.”

Read more: Doctors said she would never walk. This brave toddler proved them wrong

Annabelle will need a wheelchair for a few weeks as it is too painful to walk. (Caters)
Annabelle will need a wheelchair for a few weeks as it is too painful to walk. (Caters)

On 11 May, Newman had her second operation, but on 16 May, she developed an abscess and two cysts on her leg.

“She is very lucky as she could have contracted sepsis, which is likely to lead to an amputation," Kirby adds. 

Newman also endured a three-hour operation to sample her blood and bone marrow before a biopsy of the infection was taken.

Her leg has been put in a plaster cast in order to keep it straight. Her seventh operation to ensure the wound by her groin was clean took place on 4 June.

Watch: Playing this band's music could protect you against mosquito bites. 

As nurses are required to change Newman's dressings daily, her parents haven’t been given a discharge date just yet.

Now the family are keen to warn other parents to be vigilant about the risks. 

“I want other parents to be aware of sharp shrubs or objects, especially around muddy soil areas," Kirby explains.

“It isn’t worth the risk to lose a limb over a thorn.”

Read more: Two boys suffer organ failure after catching E.coli on countryside outing

Dad, Oscar Newman, 30, Annabelle, seven, mum, Charlene Kirby, 30 and son Archie, one. (Caters)
Dad, Oscar Newman, 30, Annabelle, seven, mum, Charlene Kirby, 30 and son Archie, one. (Caters)

How to treat a wound

The NHS says most cuts and grazes are minor and can be easily treated at home.

"Stopping the bleeding, cleaning the wound thoroughly and covering it with a plaster or dressing is usually all that's needed," the site explains.

"Minor wounds should start to heal within a few days."

How can I tell if a wound is infected? 

Infection can develop in any type of wound, either surgical (a cut made during an operation) or due to trauma, ie cuts, lacerations or grazes.

According to Patient.info, a wound which has become, or is becoming, infected may:

  • Become more painful, instead of gradually improving.

  • Look red around the skin edges. This red area may feel warm or hot.

  • Look swollen.

  • Ooze a yellow material (pus), which may be smelly.

If the infection spreads further, the redness will keep spreading to more areas of skin. You may feel unwell in yourself, with a temperature and aches and pains.

Read more: Mum warns other parents after her children have severe reaction to toxic caterpillars

What to do if you think a wound is infected

Call NHS 111 or visit your local walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or GP surgery if there's a risk your wound could become infected, or you think it's already infected.

A wound is at risk of infection if:

  • it's been contaminated with dirt, pus or other bodily fluids

  • there was something in the wound before it was cleaned, such as gravel or a shard of glass

  • it has a jagged edge

  • it's longer than 5cm (2 inches)

  • it was caused by an animal or human bite. 

An infected wound can usually be successfully treated with a short course of antibiotics. 

Additional reporting Caters.

Watch: Mum who developed sepsis looking forward to hugging her kids thanks to bionic arms. 

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