A woman in her mid-20s narrowly avoided having her tongue amputated because one of her teeth became infected.
Caitlin Alsop, 24, is grateful doctors prevented her from years of relearning how to drink, eat, and speak by helping her avoid a glossectomy surgical procedure.
The woman from Australia’s Gold Coast had been diagnosed with a serious tooth infection that caused her throat to swell so much that it was closed and put her in a coma.
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It all started in August 2018 when she had dinner, went to bed, and realized she could not breathe overnight.
“I came in to the world on a Sunday struggling to breathe and nearly left the world the same way two weeks ago,” she said in a Facebook post on Aug. 19, 2018.
"Never be ashamed of a scar. It means something tried to beat you, but you were stronger than it"….So, I came in to…
She revealed she faced her three deepest fears of hospitals, intubation, and burns in a single night. Emergency room doctors gave Alsop adrenaline for a suspected allergic reaction and an induced coma when her blood pressure dropped, while they examined her.
“An ambulance transfer, emergency operation, life support in [the] intensive care unit for nine days, and an incredible team of 18-60 people at the Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH), and I am alive and well today,” she said.
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Alsop was disappointed that no health professional could immediately diagnose her symptoms.
“My three symptoms that no general practitioner could detect? A burnt tongue feeling that night, red rash on my face, and sleeping constantly,” she said.
Her worried family members gathered around her.
“Mum was told to prepare for the worst,” she told News Limited.
After undergoing several tests, doctors finally discovered the symptoms was because Alsop had contracted Ludwig’s angina, a rare skin infection that spreads under the tongue after developing an abscess—when pus accumulates in the center of a tooth.
“The condition is extremely rare and means to be strangled alive,” she said.
The infection had spread from a wisdom tooth she did not know she had to her entire jaw. Doctors were concerned it may travel to her brain, neck, and chest.
“It was the infection and life support machines/drains which burnt me. It moves quickly through any tissues,” Alsop said.
GCUH Oral Surgeon Dr. Kemal Akbiyik said it is essential for patients to attend regular dental checks and remove wisdom teeth as dental infections can become deadly.
“Ludwig’s angina is a life-threatening condition because it threatens the airway, and patients can die from acute airway obstruction from the swelling it causes,” he told News Limited. “A dental infection can travel to the brain or downwards into the neck, and even into the chest.”
Alsop thanked doctors for saving her life and has started inviting family and friends to visit her again.
“To the real heroes, the ones who wear scrubs not capes, thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do everyday,” she said in another Facebook post on Oct. 17, 2018. “Home now and anyone is welcome to come visit.”
To the real heroes. The ones who wear scrubs not capes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do everyday. 👨⚕️👩⚕️💕🙏. #nurseappreciation
Even though doctors were able to save Alsop’s tongue, she still has a permanent speech impediment. She hopes to return to authoring her own free deals mobile application called YesThanks.
“I was scared to go back to the business, and scared to talk with my new lisp,” she said. “It’s ironic that in nearly losing my tongue and my ability to speak, I gained a whole new voice, and an even bigger story to share.”
“I am so thankful for it, live every day like it’s your last. Never be ashamed of a scar. It means something tried to beat you, but you were stronger than it,” she added.