Young woman left with two stone leg after being bitten by a mosquito
A young woman who was bitten by a mosquito has been left with one leg weighing TWO STONE.
Angharad Willaims, 25, from South Wales, Newport, first noticed her ankle starting to swell after being bitten by a mosquito as a teenager.
It took two years for doctors to diagnose her with lymphoedema – an incurable condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues, normally affecting the lower limbs.
Some mosquitos carry a parasite that can block the fluid from draining within the lymphatic system – something doctors believe happened to Angharad.
Although her one leg now weighs a staggering two stone, with her left leg now double its orginal size, the full-time PE teacher has not allowed it to hold her back.
Participating in triathlons, swimming competitions and hiking expeditions, Angharad is living life to the full and sharing her story to raise awareness.
Angharad said: “It all happened over night, one minute I had two normal-sized legs and the next it was swollen.
“I’d been bitten by a mosquito so I presumed it was larger because of that, I never imagined it would be something so life-changing, I was only 13 at the time.
“But when it kept getting bigger, my mum, Margaret, 60, took me to the doctors.
“It took two years before doctors realised I had primary lymphoedema of the left leg, by this point my whole leg was swollen and double the size of the other one, my confidence hit rock bottom.
“I tried my best to hide it but I struggled to wear normal school uniform due to it being much larger than the right.
“Thankfully when I was diagnosed I was able to control the swelling by wearing a compression bandage every day.
“The bandage, which is like a thick pair of tights, is the whole length of my left leg and reaches my hip, it helps compress the fluid in my leg and stops it from expanding anymore.
“It now weighs around two stone and will gradually get bigger as I get older, eventually my whole left side will be affected including my arm and hand.”
Despite her diagnosis, Angharad has refused to allow it to control her life.
She added: “I’m now a P.E teacher and I’m doing sports all day long, it’s my dream job.
“I teach a lot of young girls and it’s great being able to educate them about lymphoemema when they ask about my leg.
“My leg feels heavy when I walk and it can be a real pain trying to move quickly but I just get on with it.
“I don’t see the point in hiding away at home and dwelling on it, it hasn’t stopped me so far.”
Angharad’s main problem with the condition is finding clothes to fit over her left leg and being extra careful not to damage the skin on it.
She said: “If you cut the skin on an area affected by lymphoedema you can be prone to getting a life-threatening skin condition called cellulitis.
“I use hair removal creams to limit the risk of cutting while shaving, I also have to regularly moisturise my leg to ensure the skin doesn’t become cracked.”
Angharad has received some spiteful comments from strangers in the past but she doesn’t let it get her down.
She added: “I’m so used to people staring that I don’t take any notice anymore.
“A few people have said my leg looks ‘mummified’ because of all bandages on it but it’s nothing I’ve not heard before.
“I rarely take the pressure garments off unless it’s to sleep and I re-apply every morning.”
Some sufferers of lymphoedema undergo surgery to have the fluid drained from the leg – similar to liposuction.
Angharad said: “I will one day have a the procedure done, it isn’t a cure but it will help until the fluid builds up once again.
“They insert fine needles into the leg and drain the fluid away.
“I’m still able to run and swim at the moment but my leg is so heavy it means everything takes a little longer than it would if I didn’t have the condition.”
Angharad is sharing her story to educate and help others who have also received the same diagnosis.
She said: “I want people with the lymphoedema to read my story and realise that it doesn’t have to make you unhappy.
“I’m in a happy relationship, I have a great career and participate in sporting events every year.
“Eventually my condition will get worse and spread up my left side, including my arm and hand, but I won’t allow it to determine my future.”
Angharad has been supported by The Lymphoedema Support Network and the Lymphoedema Clinic at St Woolos Hospital.
Matthew Griffiths, Medical Nurse at St Woolos Hospital Lymphoedema Clinic, said: “I’ve worked alongside Angharad since 2013, she has primary lymphoedema in her right leg.
“Although it might have been triggered by a mosquito bite when she was younger, it is likely she was born with the condition which lay dormant until she was thirteen.
“Normally her type of lymphoedema presents itself at birth, during teenage or young adulthood.
“Some adults are affected when hitting the menopause as it is linked with hormonal changes.
“Angharad comes to the clinic every few weeks for different treatments depending on how well she’s getting on with her self-management.
“Often she will have new bandages or a compression pump attached to help ease the swelling.
“But she never allows it to hold her back, she’s very inspiring and is often seen wearing her sports gear.
“Angharad is one of the youngest patients I have at the clinic and it’s amazing how well she has dealt with having the condition from a very young age.”
A spokesperson from The Lymphoedema Support Network, said: “The lymphatic system is the silent warrior of out bodies it quietly goes about its jobs of fighting infection, keeping the fluid in our bodies balanced and even fighting cancer cells and yet most of us don’t even notice it is there.
“Sometimes however, if our lymphatic system does not develop properly or if it is damaged, then it stops doing its job and the effects of this are all too noticeable.
“In Angharad’s case she most likely had a lymphatic system that was not functioning as well as it should have been and so it was unable to battle the infection caused when she was bitten by the mosquito.
“In turn the infection caused further damage and so her lymphatics were then unable to do its other jobs of managing the fluid in her limb so she developed yet more problems including a chronic swelling.
“This swelling for Angharad and the estimated other 200,000 people in the UK with chronic swelling associated with lymphoedema will never go away, there is no cure and the only treatments involve an intensive daily care regieme of compression, skin care, movement and massage.
“Many people living with lymphoedema become sad and even depressed, others choose to face it head on and not let it interfere with what they want to achieve but most people, like any of us, have good times and bad times and it can be of such value to hear inspirational stories like Angharads.
“Our charity is run by those with the condition, they understand and are committed to making a real difference for Angharad and all those with lymphoedema.”
Do you, or someone you know, have a similar story to tell? Get in touch today to earn £££ and raise awareness.