WARNING: Distressing images.
A Sydney man’s life has changed forever when what started as a simple flu-like illness turned out to be a life-threatening disease.
Shahed Anwar, 42, a father-of-two originally from Bangladesh, moved to Australia in 2013 for a better life for his family.
The loving dad and devoted husband has had an illustrious career working in IT, running his own business where he is the sole income earner for his family of four.
However, in December last year, the family’s life turned upside down when Anwar got what he thought at first was the flu.
But his flu-like symptoms were in fact from necrotising fasciitis caused by Strep A. Necrotising fasciitis is a bacterial infection which causes the death of tissue – sometimes called a flesh-eating disease.
It is an infection that can spread rapidly in the body and lead to sepsis.
The infection resulted in Anwar having to have both his legs amputated from the knee down, and also his hands from the wrist, after bacteria spread into his bloodstream causing permanent damage to his tissue.
According to Queensland Health, the rare disease happens when bacteria invade the soft tissue and fascia.
“They multiply quickly, releasing toxins and enzymes that cause blood clots in the blood vessels. This leads to the death of the tissue in your skin and muscles and the tissue under your skin.”
Dr Ishrat Jahan, a family friend of the Anwars, described the heartbreaking moment she found out about Anwar’s condition.
“At around 1am on December 12, his wife [Tamanna] sent me a photo of a piece of paper with the words ‘necrotising fasciitis of the upper thigh’ asking what it meant,” Jahan told news.com.au.
“It wasn’t good.”
In the week before he was hospitalised on December 11, Anwar was experiencing groin pain in his upper thigh. He was also coughing, had cold sweats and a fever.
“His wife called me saying he was feeling unwell,” Jahan said.
But given his wife and their two kids, a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy, were battling a flu, they thought Anwar was in the same situation.
However, when his condition began to suddenly worsen, they knew something was not right.
“Tamanna called me again panicking, saying he is not looking good. He is sweating a lot, he has a very glassy eye, very pale, is extremely tired and is having trouble breathing. I told her to call an ambulance immediately.”
Anwar was taken to Campbelltown Hospital where he was treated for Strep Pyogenes Toxic Shock (STSS) – also called group A streptococcus.
“It is a very rare type of bacterial infection,” Jahan, a GP based in southwest Sydney, said.
“People who are more prone to it are those who have low immunity like diabetes or a chronic disease,” Jahan said.
STSS often begins with influenza-like symptoms, including fever and chills.
Anwar, who is diabetic, has been in and out of ICU in four different hospitals in Sydney as he battles the vicious disease. He is currently at Concord Hospital.
His condition has shocked and rocked his family and friends.
After hearing the news, his mother immediately flew from Bangladesh to be by her son’s side.
“He has shown immense strength and courage in the face of adversity, enduring multiple surgeries and treatments that have left him without both his legs from below the knee and both his hands from the wrists,” family friend Tanvir Huda said in a GoFundMe.
Jahan said the incredible team at Concord Hospital did everything they could to try to retain his limbs and treat the infection, but it came to a point where they had to amputate.
“When he was admitted, the bacteria spread in his bloodstream causing permanent damage to the tissue – the tissue became dead and when this happens there’s no option other than to cut it to save the remaining limbs,” she said.
Anwar has also had a tracheostomy – a surgically created hole (stoma) in his windpipe (trachea) to provide an alternative airway for breathing.
And on top of this, he suffered a heart attack during one of his many operations.
“We are very upset at what Shahed and his family are going through,” Huda told news.com.au.
Jahan added that Anwar’s wife has been incredibly brave and strong as she continues to manage the household, juggle the needs of their two kids, all while visiting her husband every day from their home in Airds, which is about an hour’s drive each way to the hospital.
The friends say it is unknown how long Anwar will need to remain in hospital before being transferred to a specialist rehabilitation centre, but it is anticipated it will be more than 10 months.
“He has a long road to recovery. His quality of life is not going to be the same as someone with all four limbs, putting immense pressure on him and his family,” Jahan said.
It is why the GoFundMe was set up, which has already raised more than $69,000.
“We cannot even begin to imagine the challenges that Tamanna and her family have been facing during this incredibly difficult time as the sole earning member of the family is in dire straits,” Huda wrote on the page.
“But we know that with the support of our community, we can help alleviate some of the burdens and make their journey a little bit easier.”