A man’s African trip of a lifetime almost cost him his life after a parasitic worm swam up his penis and laid eggs inside his body.
James Michael spent three months in hospital and lost use of his legs following the horrific ordeal which he has described as “grotesque”.
The 32-year-old had gone for a dip in Lake Malawi in southeastern Africa with pals, but had no idea a parasitic worm had burrowed into his privates.
The parasite laid eggs inside him, which slowly made him so ill his immune system went into overdrive, and attacked his spine.
The marketer was hospitalised for three months while medics fought to get the infection – bilharzia – under control, giving him only a 30 per cent chance of a full recovery.
But after a stint in a wheelchair, suffering digestion and toilet problems, and using crutches for four months he has finally made a full recovery.
James, from Kensington, central London, said: “When I look back at photos from my time in Africa, it’s weird to think that’s where the parasite crawled up my penis. That wasn’t exactly how I imagined the trip of a lifetime with my friends going – the whole experience was surreal and strange. Plotting a line, it was like going straight from a paradise beach to a hospital bed, almost incapacitated and helpless. This journey has made me definitely think more about my health and about how I look after myself – like reading up on health risks when I travel.”
While he didn’t notice any problems after coming home at first, it was in October last year when he began notice a loss of feeling in both his legs. He initially suspected it was fatigue from cycling, but it was soon revealed to be more sinister.
“I explained to them that something serious was going on. I went to the neurology department, and they did blood tests to see what was up. They determined quite quickly that my immune system was attacking my spine, leading to the loss of control of my legs. I was put on a six-month course of steroids to counter this, but they didn’t actually know what had caused this. It was a horrible feeling – I felt completely helpless, and the odds weren’t good. I couldn’t wish what I’ve been through on anybody. The pain has been like nothing I’ve ever know. At times, it has been an excruciating physical pain that’s been debilitating.”
Looking back, he says he’d ‘urge anyone thinking of getting into Lake Malawi not to’. The 32-year-old added:
“It’s just not worth the potential risks of a little worm climbing in your body through your parts. It’s a grotesque, sickening thought. This has been horrendous. It’s felt like a never-ending mountain I’ve had to climb.”
Now make sure to think twice before taking a dip in any lake.