A single mum-of-four has spent five months away from her young children after a routine dental appointment landed her in hospital hell.
Treatment on an abscess to the Yorkshire mum’s tooth led to an infection on her brain that could have killed her.
Now Rebecca Dalton is appealing for others to make sure they follow up on routine dentist work after the small growth on her tooth almost cost the 35-year-old her life.
Rebecca, from Snaith, near Goole, went to the dentist in December last year after a small abscess developed on her upper wisdom tooth and was given antibiotics and told the tooth would need removing.
But she told Hull Live the dentist could not carry out the procedure there and then because she was heavily pregnant at the time.
Then in March, after finishing the course of antibiotics and assuming the infection had been dealt with, Rebecca said her “personality changed completely”.
“I became really uptight, really anxious and quite emotional,” she said. “I thought I was having a mental breakdown.”
Her mum offered to care for her three young children, a five-year-old daughter and two twins aged three, while her friend took care of her three-month-old baby, as Rebecca worried about them witnessing what was happening to her.
“I didn’t want them to witness me having a breakdown,” she added.
Soon after, she was rushed to hospital in Scunthorpe by her terrified family, where she was told abscesses had grown on her heart and liver.
Further scans on her brain showed that growths had also formed there, putting pressure on the front of her brain and affecting her personality, cognitive abilities and bodily functions.
After losing even her ability to walk, she was sent to the neurological department at Hull Royal Infirmary.
Shockingly, experts discovered that it was the same bacteria in the fluid in her brain as had been in the abscess on her tooth.
She said her condition deteriorated so much that even now she cannot remember the transfer from Scunthorpe to Hull.
“It’s as if my memory’s just blacked it out,” she said.
“I was just so confused, I would look at people and think I knew them when I obviously didn’t.”
On two separate occasions Rebecca’s mum was allowed to visit her in hospital – against the lockdown restrictions in place at the time – as doctors warned her that her daughter might not survive.
Rebecca finally left the ward after six weeks of rehabilitation in Castle Hill Hospital last Tuesday, July 21, six stone lighter than when she last left her home five months earlier.
She also said she had met face to face some of the worst-affected patients of Covid-19 while in rehabilitation, including a woman who had needed a tracheotomy to help her breathe and had spent 60 days in an induced coma fighting the disease.
“They also mentioned having these really vivid nightmares where Covid was coming to get them,” she said.
Rebecca herself required testing every time she moved beds during her time in hospital and said she had around 12 thankfully negative tests in that time.
She is now managing her recovery from home, but still has carers visit every day and struggles with weakness on the left side of her body, meaning she also requires adaptations to her home to make it safer for her.
“It has been a life-changing experience,” she said.
“At 35 you don’t expect to have carers in every morning watching you take your tablets, it’s been such a big shock.
“It was really, really tough. It’s given me a different outlook on life – you can’t take for granted something so simple that could cost you your life.”
But she said coming home again for the first time in months was a huge step and she hopes to return to work as a PA in October.
Her children, who she now sees every day after having to make do with video calls while in hospital during lockdown, will also return once she is confident that her health has fully improved.
Now she is warning others to make sure they do not take simple issues with their health for granted, saying it can easily lead to something much worse.
“People need to know what can happen – a simple tooth abscess can take your life,” she said.
“Just be aware, follow up on everything and get checked even after you’ve had antibiotics.
“You don’t realise until you’re in that situation how dangerous it can be.”