A mum feared her daughter would be left paralysed after she was bitten on the lip by a false widow spider in her sleep – leaving her unable to move her legs.
Phoebe-Lee Matthews, from Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, woke up last month with a strange black dot on her lip which was initially believed to be a wart or impetigo.
Two days later, her mum, Rachel Wilson, spotted an “unusual-looking” spider on the landing, which she believes was the false widow that bit her 10-year-old daughter.
Phoebe was prompted to visit the GP on August 15 – five days after the mark first appeared – as it became darker and more swollen, returning several times and being given antibiotics.
Rachel, 35, said it eventually popped and started to ooze “white gunk” before scabbing over – leaving her thinking that the worst was over.
But Phoebe was rushed to hospital the next morning after her temperature skyrocketed and she collapsed.
There, doctors gave her antibiotics to tackle the infection and she was discharged the next day.
Six weeks on from her ordeal, Phoebe is fully healed but has been left with a “hole” in her face and panics each night when she’s put to bed.
Rachel, who works as a carer, is now keen to raise awareness of the importance of being vigilant around spiders and urges parents to seek medical help straight away if their child is bitten.
She said: “It was absolute hell. It’s taken a good four weeks for her to get over this.
“The bite was really black with brown spots in it and it had a white ring around the black spots. It was also red where it was swollen.
“It’s left a hole in her face. The dermatologist agreed that it was a false widow spider bite.”
Phoebe woke up on August 10 with a “black dot” on her lip that had appeared overnight, that became bigger and surrounded by redness.
Rachel said: “I thought ‘well that’s strange’ but two days later we saw a false widow spider outside on the landing from her bedroom door.
“It was like a pinky-orange colour with a weird-shaped back. It was a really unusual spider and I’d never seen one before. It went out the window.
“That was the only spider in the house, I looked everywhere and turned the rooms upside down.
“She was fine for the rest of the week and on the following Monday morning I noticed it looked bigger and blacker and I thought ‘jeez, something’s not right here’.”
After taking Phoebe to her GP she was given a cream to tackle what they suspected was a wart or impetigo, but nothing improved and they went back two days later.
Rachel said: “On Wednesday morning I went back to the doctors again and said ‘listen, I’m still not happy. It’s getting bigger, something’s not right’.
“It was looking really red around the black spot, you could see it was infected.
“The doctor prescribed her with an antibiotic, I started using that and the next day she woke up and it was swollen. Her lip was really fat and she goes ‘Mum, I can’t speak’.
“I was like ‘oh my god, jesus’, so I took her back to the doctor again.
“On Saturday morning the spot had popped and was oozing out gunk so her lip had slightly de-swelled.
“The fluid was a mix between clear and white pus.
“I asked how she was and she was like ‘it’s leaking Mum, it’s leaking in my mouth’ and it was all crusty as it was trying to dry.”
At this point Rachel was hopeful that her daughter’s lip was starting to heal and that the antibiotics needed a few days to kick in as the doctor had advised.
But the following morning, on August 21, Phoebe’s condition significantly deteriorated.
Rachel said: “I woke her up and asked her to come downstairs for her antibiotics and she said ‘Mum, I don’t feel well’.
“I felt her head and her arms, body and legs were all boiling hot so I put a thermometer strip on her forehead and it went straight to 40 degrees.
“I instantly panicked and gave her some Calpol. I tried to get her to come downstairs and she said ‘I would Mummy but I can’t move my legs, they’re broken’.
“I grabbed her ankle and bent her leg and it was just dead weight and was all floppy. I went to stand her up then and she just collapsed.
“It scared the life out of me. My kids have been ill catching bugs or whatever but I’ve never been so scared.
“I was panicking. I thought she had sepsis from it and was worried she was paralysed. I was thinking ‘how long is this going to last for?'”
She then carried Phoebe downstairs to give her Calpol and antibiotics before they headed to Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.
She spent the night there where they increased her dose of antibiotics.
Rachel said: “She’s back to her normal self now but it has scarred her. She’s panicking every night when I put her to bed.
“I’ve got to pull the blinds up, look in the windows and check in between the curtains. I’m constantly checking every room.
“I’d tell other parents that if they see any spiders to get them out of the house quickly, don’t even risk it.
“If they see a black spot, get them straight to the doctors for antibiotics.”