A Rare and Deadly Flesh-Eating Bacteria Nearly Claimed My Leg…

Earlier this year, 25-year-old Sydney Uni Winger, Henry Clunies Ross spent 16 days in the Prince of Wales Hospital recovering from a rare and deadly flesh-eating bacteria that nearly claimed one of his legs. It took multiple surgeries, the help of infectious disease specialists, antibiotics and regular two-hour spells in the Prince of Wales Hospital’s hyperbaric chamber to kill the bug off once and for all – without having to amputate his leg.

 “Playing rugby I’ve encountered the odd injury and a fair share of bumps and bruises but I’d never thought that a cut would lead to a rare and deadly flesh-eating bacteria! With a lot of luck and the expertise of the Prince of Wales Hospital I was able to get back to health quickly. The support the talented doctors, nurses and staff provided was amazing and I can’t thank them enough,” says Henry.

Thanks to the Prince of Wales Hospital and intense rehab, Henry was back in action in the gym only five weeks after the accident and has recently returned to the field joining his team for the back end of the footy season.

“I’ve added collagen into my diet and utilise light therapy to help the healing of some impressive battle scars but I’m back to my daily fitness routine. I’m very happy to be back in the gym and training with my Sydney University rugby team to get my fitness levels back to where they were before I was hospitalised,” he continues.

To show his appreciation to his hospital, the Randwick resident will be leading the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Heartbreakers Team in this year’s City2Surf.

“I’m excited to be able to give back to my local hospital in such a fun but challenging way by leading the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Heartbreakers Team in this year’s City2Surf. This will be my first time running in the annual event. My training for the City2Surf consists of a weekly team 10km run with the Heartbreakers Team,” says Henry.

Associate Professor, Leanne (Lulu) M Zalapa, CEO Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation says, “We are thrilled to have Henry lead the Foundation’s Heartbreakers Team this year in the City2Surf. His personal story of overcoming such an aggressive and rare bacteria and returning to the football field is inspirational. Henry has been such a joy to the team already, providing his get-fit quick tips and pushing others to do their best time trial at team training sessions on Monday evenings.”

 “The Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Heartbreakers Team has been proudly participating in City2Surf for 13 years and has raised over $300,000 to date for various departments at the Prince of Wales Hospital that need our support. This year, funds raised via City2Surf will be going to our Mental Health Patients across numerous areas, including the mental health intensive care unit, observation and general ward, the aged care and rehab mental health facilities, and off-site in the early psychosis Bondi Junction Centre, Headspace Bondi Junction and Mental Health Maroubra. Over the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in mental health related admissions, with patients almost doubling since 2013 (Prince of Wales Hospital Kiloh Centre, May 2019),” continues Lulu.

Leanne (Lulu) M Zalapa, CEO Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation

“In order to continue offering excellent care to an increasing number of patients, Heartbreakers’ fundraising will develop new support programs and initiatives. Sometimes it’s the more unique initiatives that make all the difference to a patient’s health and wellbeing. A great example is Keith’s Closet – an idea that was born when hospital staff discovered that their mental health patients were suffering a lack of self-care, dignity and purpose, all because they had insufficient clothing. Keith’s Closet is a walk-in wardrobe complete with a fitting room, that allows patients access to good quality donated clothing for free. It is based on the concept of ‘look good, feel good’– and it works! This is why it’s so important that the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation and the community continue to support new and unique initiatives, like Keith’s Closet. Exercise and motivational programs, education on preparing good wholesome meals, massage chairs and other equipment and programs will also be provided to help patients look and feel good from the Heartbreakers’ fundraising efforts,” concludes Lulu.

Henry says, “Mental health is such a widespread issue in Australia and is more common than most people think. It’s really important that our hospitals, like Prince of Wales, can provide the best support and care possible for people who are impacted by mental illness at different times of their lives. I can relate first-hand to the experience of what it’s like to feel down, particularly during my recovery and weeks of being bedridden. I now see a psychologist regularly to try and stay on top of my mental health. I’m fortunate to be back on my feet now and credit regular fitness and exercise to staying mentally healthy and believe it to be really important for mental wellbeing.”

“We encourage everyone to support Henry and the Heartbreakers team to raise funds for the Prince of Wales Hospital’s Mental Health Department,” says Lulu.  

Join the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Heartbreakers Team or donate here: www.powhf.org.au/heartbreakers-team/.