EXCLUSIVE by Eloise Horsfield
AN EXPAT, whose life was saved by the fourth liver transplant ever to take place in the UK, has died after being bitten by a sandfly.
Susan Hughes, who retired to Velez Malaga with her husband in 2004, contracted black fever – a rare parasitic disease – through the saliva of a sandfly which had most likely bitten an infected dog.
“She felt very ill so we went to see her GP in Vinuela,” explained her husband, Tony Hughes.
“Her temperature was very high and we knew something was wrong.”
Mrs Hughes, 67, was immediately taken to A&E at Velez Malaga hospital, where doctors failed to find anything wrong and put her in isolation.
Blood samples were then sent to Barcelona to be cultured and took a week to come back.
“They knew what they were up against after that,” said Mr Hughes, who met his wife in 1983, just before she had the liver operation that was to grant her 28 extra years of life.
Mrs Hughes was given a blood transfusion, but because the parasite had got into her blood doctors were unable to save her.
“They tried everything but she couldn’t fight it because her immune system was low from the liver transplant,” said Mr Hughes.
Over the last few days she developed black blotches on her arms and chest and scabs on the roof of her mouth – typical symptoms of the deadly disease.
“She was delirious towards the end because her temperature was over 40.
“The doctors said she died of septicaemia in the end,” said Mr Hughes, pictured below with Susan, her daughter Sharon and Susan’s two grandchildren, Teddy and Billy.
Black fever is a common killer in India, Africa and Brazil and can also occur in southern Europe although there are just two cases a year in the UK.