Redback spider bite turns into years of hell for Edenhope mum with doctors warning of amputation
A mum-of-two has suffered from horrific pain and chronic ulceration on her arm for a staggering eight years after she was bitten by a spider found all over Australia.
But the 28-year-old’s battle to beat her redback spider side-effects isn’t over yet, with doctors warning her arm may still need to be amputated even after she spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to treat the painful bite.
Jenna Allen, 28, from Edenhope in western Victoria was bitten by a redback spider in November 2014.
Ms. Allen was volunteering for the Donald Country Fire Authority and was getting ready to leave her home and sandbag properties to protect them from floodwaters when she started rummaging through a shoebox on the back verandah.
Mother-of-two Jenna Allen (pictured) was rummaging through a shoebox on the back veranda of her home in Victoria when she was bitten by a redback spider on her left forearm
Redback spiders are considered ‘highly venomous’, particularly for young children, and have are commonly found hiding in gardens, fences and even homes.
While looking through the box, Ms Allen all of a sudden felt a ‘stinging sensation’ and noticed a black ‘speck’ crawling up her left forearm.
Believing it was a bug, she brushed it off.
But Ms Allen soon realized something was very wrong after her arm began pulsating with pain and she felt a ‘sickly feeling’ rush through her entire body.
‘Glancing down at my forearm, I gasped seeing a long, red raised bump tracked up it,’ Ms Allen told That’s Life Magazine.
‘Minutes later, my head was throbbing and I felt stabbing pains in my stomach. As goosebumps spread over my arm, my heart sank. Something is very wrong.
A frightened Ms. Allen called her dad for help and explained something had bitten her.
As the pair scoured the floor of the veranda looking for clues, Ms Allen eventually noticed a ‘tiny’ redback spider around half the size of a five cent piece.
Redback spiders are common across Australia and usually hide in gardens, fences and even homes. They are considered highly venomous, particularly for young children.
Her father rushed her to the local hospital – however they did not have the antivenin needed to treat the bite.
Ms Allen’s wound became necrotic and she was rushed into surgery, where doctors performed a skin graft and replaced the skin on her forearm with skin from her thigh.
Ms Allen was then taken to another hospital an hour away where she was given two doses of antivenin and rushed into the Intensive Care Unit.
‘I was given high levels of antibiotics and pain relief, but within days, doctors told me that the wound had become necrotic,’ Ms Allen said.
‘This meant the tissue on my arm was dead and the infection was eating away at my skin.’
Doctors then performed a skin graft, taking skin from her left thigh to replace the necrotic wound on her arm.
The wound began to heal and Ms Allen felt she was finally getting her life back but 12 months later, noticed a rash spreading over her arm.
‘I noticed small red mosquito bite-like bumps spreading over my skin graft, reaching from my wrist to my elbow,’ Ms Allen said.
‘I didn’t think much of it, but when the bumps turned green and the wound broke down into horrendous weeping ulcers, I cried.’
One year after her surgery, Ms. Allen began to notice small red mosquito bite-like bumps spreading over my skin graft. The bumps eventually turned green and her wound broke out in horrendous weeping ulcers
Once a week for the next several months Ms. Allen needed to have her wound cleaned and dressed and wrapped with a specialized dressing containing collagen and silver – which aids with healing and bacteria prevention.
Ms. Allen explained she was barely able to afford the specialized dressing as it was not covered under Medicare and cost $1,300 a week.
In 2016, Ms Allen found Dr Booth at the Swan Hill Medical Centre, who diagnosed her with chronic ulceration.
Dr Booth explained the venom from the spider bite caused an immune response which made her body reject the skin graft.
Every fortnight Ms Allen travels a seven-hour round trip to have her wound (pictured) monitored. She often has to change her dressings daily – which costs her $1,300 a week.
Redback spiders Found across Australia Commonly live in gardens or buildings Non-aggressive and usually play dead if disturbed Can be fatal for humans, particularly in young children The adult female is easily recognized by her spherical black body with a prominent red stripe on the upper side of her abdomen and an hourglass-shaped red/orange streak on the underside. Females usually have a body length of about 10 millimeters, while the male is much smaller, being only 3–4 mm long.
Ms Allen was referred to the burns unit and would often suffer convulsions from the pain in her arm and needed local anesthetic when the nurses changed her dressings.
After three months, the wound began to heal but she was left with constant pain in her arm.
In 2020, doctors performed a deep skin biopsy after voicing concerns the wound could spread.
They discovered precancerous cells in the area where the spider had bitten Ms. Allen.
‘They suggested if the wound spread, I might even need an amputation,’ Ms Allen said.
Every fortnight, she travels the long seven-hour round trip to Swan Hill Medical Center for close monitoring of her wound.
Ms Allen said the spider bite had taken a mental and physical toll on her and her family and had ‘ruined her life as she knew it.’
‘When I had my darling daughter Liliana in May 2021, it was tough trying to breastfeed and support her tiny body with just one arm… Even getting her in and out of her pram was agonizingly painful,’ Ms Allen said.
‘The mental and physical toll the wound has had on not just me, but my family, is exhausting.
‘I work as a dance teacher which is tiring too. Despite medication, the pain is so bad, I often struggle to sleep.
‘A redback ruined my life as I knew it, but I try my best to remain positive. And I know there are others struggling with chronic wounds who are worse off than me.
Ms. Allen’s only wish is to be able to pick up her son and daughter without feeling agonizing pain. A GoFundMe page was started by her friend to help cover her medical expenses.
Ms Allen’s good friend Glenn Sarah started a GoFundMe page to help with her never-ending medical costs.
‘Currently the dressings on her arm are changed daily due to the amount of sluff that is produced from the wound,’ Mr Sarah wrote.
‘Each dressing change is costing her $1,300 a week not including medications and additional products if needed.
‘At the moment the costs of Jenna’s weekly wound dressings are huge as she has to pay for the dressings herself especially now covid has restricted her from traveling to her GP.’
He explained Ms. Allen’s only wish is to be able to pick up her young song and daughter without experiencing pain.
At the time of writing, the GoFundMe page has received 53 donations totaling $1,990 and hopes to raise $17,000.