Arachnophobic mum suffers heart attack and had to be give 4 shots of anti-venom because she was bit by a spider in her sleep!
An arachnophobic mum who was bitten in her own BED by one of the world’s most lethal spiders has battled back to health despite suffering a heart attack and having to be given FOUR shots of anti-venom.
Fiona Donagh, 51, from the Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia, was asleep in her bed on Boxing Day when around 3am she felt something crawling up her right leg.
The crawler was in fact a two-inch wide male funnel web spider – six times more toxic than a female – and one of the world’s most deadly spiders with a bite that can kill in just 15 minutes.
Not realising what the bug was under her sheets Fiona shook her legs and arms before feeling an intense jellyfish-like stinging sensation to her body as the spider sank in its fearsome fangs.
As she leapt out of bed to turn on the light she saw the black-bodied wouldbe assassin sitting on her bed and realised she could be in trouble.
But with an amazing presence of mind Fiona calmly trapped the creature under a glass bowl knowing identification could be vital for doctors and fearing for the safety of her 10-year-old son Oscar, asleep in the house. Next the teacher woke her sister who was staying with them to tell her she had been bitten.
Within half an hour the intense pain of two bites on her torso and one on her left arm had developed into severe muscle spasms, sweating, excess saliva production and confusion and Fiona collapsed on the sofa as paramedics raced to her home.
The deadly spider – which has since been dubbed Yorick – travelled with the mum-of-one in the ambulance and to Bowral then Liverpool hospitals were doctors administered not one, but FOUR shots of anti-venom in a bid to save her life.
Fighting against the lethal toxins coursing through her veins, Fiona knew she had to stay alive for her son Oscar, whose father Steve had passed away when he was just three-months old.
With true Aussie grit she battled back despite at one stage suffering a heart attack caused by the deadly poison. And incredibly just a few weeks later Fiona has stunned doctors with an almost complete return to full health, including now having a healthy heart.
She said: “I actually felt something going up my right leg, I felt something crawl up my right leg and it did not feel at all familiar to me.
“So as you do if you feel a fly on your arm you brush it off, my reaction was to actually to kick my legs and arms in the air and that’s when I felt it.
“It must have run or jumped very quickly to my torso and to under my left breast and I felt a very sharp pain and I knew I’d been bitten.
“It was like a jellyfish sting, I’ve been stung before and I’ve got to say the initial feeling was like a very bad jellyfish sting, that radiated. It wasn’t local, after the first couple of seconds it became a burning sensation right across my torso. It felt like it was on fire.
“I hopped out of bed, it must have been just seconds from the first bite to my leaping out of bed and switching on the light, and the spider was sitting there on my bed, so I could see it immediately.”
Fiona ran into the kitchen and gabbed a glass mixing bowl to place over the top of her attacker on the bed.
She said: “To see this thing sitting on my bed I felt violated, how did it get in my bed? That’s where you are meant to be safe. I didn’t think immediately it was a funnel web, I just thought I’ve been bitten by something and it feels really bad.
“I looked in the mirror and I could see the rash had already spread in the few seconds, within a minute, it was a red rash that looked a bit like sunburn across my torso.
Fiona rang a medical helpline but was on hold for about 15 minutes and began to think to herself she might be alright as she was only feeling the sting from the bites at this stage.
She said: “So this was about 25 minutes after the bite. When the nurse came on the phone, I said I had been bitten by a large black spider, but I said my sister who was staying with us had said it wasn’t a funnel web. But she told me ‘we are not spider experts, none of us, I will call the emergency services’.
“She said ‘Tell me, how are you feeling now?’ and just at that moment the first symptoms started to show, my lips started to go numb and started to go tingly and I could feel it spreading around my face and my tongue. And I said to the nurse ‘Oh, I feel different now’.
It was now the symptoms of the bite appeared causing at first extreme sweating, tinging to her lips and face and extreme saliva production and muscle spasms.
The ambulance arrived 30 minutes later but when the paramedics came into the house they did not have any anti-venom.
Fiona said: “Between here and Bowral hospital I was essentially lying there in the ambulance holding the paramedics hand thinking I was on my way out. And a very unusual thing came over me, from being very cold and sick and intense and extremely worried, suddenly I had this image in my head of a huge golden butterfly.
“It appeared, landed on my belly and it was flapping its wings and it started on my feet and just started wrapping me in twine, this golden twine from my feet and I felt completely warm, completely relaxed and completely happy and I remember thinking whatever happens is alright.
“And then I thought of Oscar and I thought no it’s not, it’s not alright, and I opened my eyes and I said to David the ambulance guy, ‘am I going to die?’ and he said ‘I’ve done everything that I can do at this point, now the rest is up to you so you make a decision, what have you got to live for?’ And I thought of Oscar.
“I remember with the butterfly moment thinking David must have thought I had gone crazy, because I was smiling, maybe it was the drugs. And then I passed out.
“The spider, Yorick, came with me to hospital as one of the fireys put him in one of those little urine jars because they knew they would need him for identification and perhaps to milk him to make more anti-venom.
At Bowral Hospital Fiona was given the anti-venom which had arrived from Bankstown and immediately after the doctors gave her two doses the sweating she was suffering stopped
She was transferred to Liverpool Hospital intensive care unit (ICU) but she said her memory is still blurry of what happened. Her sister who was with her at the time told her later the cubicle she in at the hospital was the same one that Oscar’s dad Steve had once been treated in.
She said: “The doctor saw I hadn’t got any better and spoke to the toxicology people again who said they should give me two more vials of anti-venom. The ant-venom itself isn’t that good for you, and some of the complications which arise from spider bites and snake bites are not just the bite itself and the toxins but the anti-venom itself can make you very sick.
“Male funnel webs do wander looking for a mate and we think when my sister brought the washing in that day and put it on the bed it must have been caught up in there. Obviously it was looking for a female and a friend of mine has since joked was I wearing a spider costume or something?
“As Yorick was there in the ward with me some people noticed he was looking a bit ‘down’ because he hadn’t any air in the jar. So one of the nurses poked some holes in the top with a syringe but sadly she went to far and she stabbed Yorick. Yorick died in his jar in hospital.
“Some people were pleased about this, but I’ve always thought that spider didn’t intend to be in my washing, it didn’t intend to bite me, it didn’t think, it reacted. I’m not a fan of spiders but I am aware it was not an intentional attack. So something in my mind actually felt a bit sorry for him.”
By 8.30am on December 27 at Liverpool ICU Fiona had stabilised but the doctors told her it can take 24 to 48 hours until they are fully happy to let someone go.
Fiona said she managed to speak to Oscar on FaceTime and let her son know she was feeling a little bit better.
She said: “I was still in ICU and hooked up to lots of things and then I started complaining of asthma and they wouldn’t give me the medication because they said it would affect my heart, and I had extraordinarily low blood pressure, a very high heart rate and very low oxygen levels.
“By the evening I was still having trouble breathing and I said to them I’ve got really bad asthma and I can’t breath. They had given me some different medication before and they said they’d get more of that.
“But there was nurse standing by my bed looking at all of the observations and she said no we’re not giving her asthma medication. She said there was something else going on, and she went and got an oxygen mask like a Darth Vader mask which breaths for you and put that on me.
“Immediately as she whacked it on I felt like I was breathing again. And this is when they found I had fluid on my lungs and that’s why I couldn’t breath and it was the nurse that spotted that the complications were starting to kick in.
“It was then too that they found I was beginning to show the symptoms of heart failure so they called a cardiologist and she discovered that only 30 percent of my heart was functioning, and the left side of my heart had completely stopped.
Fiona was kept in for a couple more days as doctors monitored her heart hoping for signs it was picking up. On the fourth day she was moved out of acute ICU into a heart ward and Fiona was told her vital signs were improving.
She said: “I was still very, very weak. My muscles had all weakened and I could barley sit myself up in bed, I couldn’t even lift my arm up, I felt like someone had zapped all the power out of me and that was one of the effects of the venom too.
“The vital signs kept picking up and I was discharged on December 30 and my friends had been round and under strict instructions stripped the bed and washed the sheets. A friend came over and we popped Oscar to bed and then checked the bed 50 times looking under all the covers.
Fiona’s latest heart tests came back and almost miraculously her heart function has been recorded as perfectly normal and all signs of coronary disease had gone.
She said: “It was an acute but temporary heart condition and the doctors said it was a result of the bite, and it is likely the bite could have affected other organs so they are still monitoring that.
“The most important thing for me is the heart is up and running and apparently it’s a very good heart.”
“I kept Yorick, but he’s shrunk a bit now. He’s a bit dehydrated to about a third of his size. I might plan to have some kind of send off for him, maybe a funeral or cremation.”