An electrician found himself unable to work and living in his car after a mosquito bite resulted in a large leg ulcer.

Shaun Bunting is urging people to get the right medical help early if they are worried about their legs and feet.

The 53-year-old, who now lives in supported accommodation in High Street, Chipping Ongar, became homeless after being bitten while working abroad in Namibia.

Shaun said: “I’d had a leg ulcer before so I knew what one looked like and could see that that’s what my bite had turned into. I always carried compression stockings with me because of the previous leg ulcer and I put them on, but it just kept growing until it had spread right across the back of my leg. I knew I had to get back to the UK straight away.”

When Shaun returned to Loughton in June 2019, he immediately referred himself to a specialist wound centre in Hackney called Accelerate.

He was diagnosed with a hard-to-treat skin condition that causes painful leg ulcers called pyoderma gangrenosum. By this stage, he was on several types of medication, including morphine and steroids, he couldn’t walk without a stick and could no longer work.

He said: “I’m self-employed and if I can’t work, I can’t afford to pay rent or bills. I’d gone from having a regular income to having to get by on less than £400 a month on Universal Credit. I ended up living on people’s sofas and eventually had to live in my car. I was in so much pain that I could barely sleep. I can understand how people are pushed to the verge of suicide by these things.”

At the height of lockdown, he was admitted to The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel for three weeks and after finding out he was homeless, the nurses put him in touch with a housing association. Within three days they’d found him temporary accommodation to move into.

He said: “I’m very grateful for the care and support I have had to help me get well and to get a roof back over my head. It sounds unbelievable to say it was caused by an insect bite on my leg. People just aren’t aware of the risks or that younger people can get ulcers on their legs and feet too. I just so happened to get a mosquito bite that turned really nasty because I didn’t get the right treatment early on.”

“There needs to be more awareness about leg and foot care problems so that people can spot and treat them earlier and stop them becoming serious."

Epping Forest Guardian:

Alison Hopkins, CEO of Accelerate, the centre that treated Shaun.

Accelerate CEO Alison Hopkins is part of the Legs Matter Campaign, which is working to improve care for serious lower leg conditions including leg or foot ulcers, swollen legs and cellulitis. She hopes that increased awareness will result in more people demanding that the right care is provided the first time and help to prevent patient suffering.

She said: “Lower limb conditions are a silent and growing epidemic, but with the right care, much of the suffering and life-changing leg and foot problems could be avoided. As part of Legs Matter Week this year we are urging people to seek help quickly if they are worried and to go back to their health care provider if their leg or foot isn’t healing, to help avoid a permanent disability.”

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