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Real Life

'My Bikini Wax from Hell'

How this Kiwi girl ended up in hospital after a simple beauty treatment
As she lay in the beauty salon, Charlotte Scott tried not to wince as the wax strip was ripped from her bikini line. But with two days to go before she'd be off on her oE, she reminded herself that suffering to look fabulous was part of preparing for the sizzling beaches of Europe.
But two months later, the 25-year-old nanny from Canterbury is suffering more than she believed possible after a flesh-eating bug ravaged her bikini line.
Wearing bandages and surgical dressings rather than a bathing suit and sunglasses, Charlotte is now recovering from life-saving operations and skin grafts.
Speaking from the London hospital where she is still being treated, Charlotte, who saved for a year to pay for her dream trip, says she had never had any problems after a bikini wax before. But two weeks after arriving in London, she noticed she had an ingrown hair in the waxed area.
"I gave it a little a squeeze but didn't think much of it, until a few days later when I saw it had turned into an abscess," she says. "It was pretty painful so I put a little bit of anti-bacterial cream on it and went on with my day."
It was during a London sightseeing expedition that Charlotte noticed the abscess was getting worse. "I went out for the day, to Buckingham Palace and Harrods, and when I got home my groin had severely swollen. The area where the ingrown hair was had grown into a black spot the size of a paracetamol tablet," she says.
Having trouble walking, Charlotte borrowed some crutches and hobbled around London, determined to finish her tour. But when the pain became too hard to cope with, she went in search of a doctor in the unfamiliar city.
"I spent a fortune on taxis!" smiles Charlotte. the doctor she eventually found sent her straight to hospital, where tests were done to find out what the infection was. But by the next day, Charlotte had become very unwell.
"The infected area had turned grey and purple, stretching from my groin to my hip. The doctors knew it was serious and rushed me into theatre."
It was discovered that Charlotte had necrotising fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria which enters the body through small wounds. It is so severe that it often leads to amputations and even death.
Critically ill and in intensive care, Charlotte had five operations in which doctors removed large chunks of infected tissue. Then, plastic surgeons gave her a series of skin grafts, taking portions of healthy skin from her thigh to cover the area lost from her groin. It will leave her scarred for life. And there will also be the emotional scars of having to go through such a terrifying experience with her family 18,000km away on the other side of the world.
Although Charlotte has two cousins living in London and a brother living in another English city, she has been by herself for most of her ordeal. "It's been extremely difficult to just arrive in a foreign country and not have the support around you to help you deal with what's happening," she says. "But I've been speaking to my mum in New Zealand every day, and hearing her voice has been a great help."
Charlotte's ordeal is so unique that it will appear in an English medical journal to teach doctors what to look out for.
The keen snowboarder will be staying with her cousin for her three months of recovery, which includes physiotherapy to help her walk properly again. But Charlotte insists she won't let her near-death experience ruin her trip.
"When something devastating like this happens, it's best to be positive," she says. "Even when I was fighting for my life I always had that Kiwi attitude of 'She'll be right, mate,' and I think it helped pull me through.
"It'd be nice to go home and see my family and friends, but I'm not going to," she says. "I'm going to stick it out and make the best of the situation. I won't be living a party lifestyle like some people who come over here, though. I'm just grateful to be alive."

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