Fraserburgh pensioner begs doctors to amputate leg swollen to 3 STONE after infection

  • Michael Cull’s leg began to swell following a car crash 12 years ago 
  • It reached 3 stone and he had to give up work as walking was a struggle 
  • Doctors suspected he may have the tropical infection elephantiasis 
  • He died this month after his leg became infected and turned blue 
Michael Cull, 68, has died in hospital after his swollen leg started to bleed and turn blue

Michael Cull, 68, has died in hospital after his swollen leg started to bleed and turn blue

A pensioner dubbed ‘the Elephant man’ has died in hospital after his swollen leg started to bleed and turn blue.

Michael Cull’s limb ballooned to three stone – double its normal size – due to a medical condition triggered by a car crash over a decade ago. 

The 68-year-old from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, pleaded with doctors to amputate it – but but dates for appointments and potential operations were continually pushed back.

He was admitted to hospital in Newcastle six weeks ago for emergency treatment after his leg began to bleed heavily while on holiday in England.

Last month, he was transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he died with his close friend Christina Brooks, 65, at his bedside.

Ms Brooks said she was devastated to see his condition deteriorate over the past few weeks.

She said she was contacted by NHS Grampian staff on Wednesday to let her know that he was not getting any better.

She said: ‘I rushed in to see him and his head was flopped over the bed like a rag doll.

‘His speech was also starting to slur and I realised he was on his way out.

‘The day before he died the doctor said he would need an amputation from his hip. 

She said he was suffering a severe infection and was put on antibiotics through an IV drip.

Every time they moved his leg he would scream in agony. 

She said: ‘When I looked at his leg it was black and blue all the way up. It looked as if he had been in a German torture chamber.

‘I could hear his screams from the bottom of the corridor, they had to give him morphine.

‘I sat with him all night and he died at three o’clock in the morning.’ 

Mr Cull’s leg began to swell after he was in a car accident 12 years ago until eventually it was three stone heavy.

Mr Cull's leg began to swell following a car accident 12 years ago, until it weighed three stone before his death

Mr Cull’s leg began to swell following a car accident 12 years ago, until it weighed three stone before his death

He was diagnosed as having gross lymphedema and later elephantiasis, which both cause the lymphatic system to become blocked
This prevents fluid draining out and causes swelling

He was diagnosed as having gross lymphedema and later elephantiasis, which both cause the lymphatic system to become blocked, preventing fluid draining out and causing swelling

He was diagnosed as having gross lymphedema, where the lymphatic system becomes blocked, meaning lymph fluid cannot drain properly and collects in the limbs, causing swelling.

It is thought the car crash may have damaged the lymphatic system in his legs, triggering the condition.

As it became progressively worse, doctors suspected he also had elephantiasis, but blood tests at the London Hospital of Tropical Diseases failed to find any trace of the parasite which normally causes the condition.

ELEPHANTIASIS: A CONDITION AFFECTING MILLIONS AROUND THE GLOBE 

Elephantiasis is normally caused by a parasite from a mosquito bite and is usually found in tropical parts of the world, like India or the Amazon, where Mr Cull grew up.

It is characterised by massive enlargement of an area of the body and is caused by the obstruction of the lymphatic system.

This results in the accumulation of fluids in the affected part of the body.

According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 1.4billion people in 73 countries worldwide are threatened by the condition, which is also known as lymphatic filariasis.

WHO figures suggest that approximately 80 per cent of these people are living in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Nepal, Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Over 120million people are currently infected, with about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated by the disease, the organisation claims.

Elephantiasis is normally caused by a parasite from a mosquito bite and is usually found in tropical parts of the world, like India or the Amazon, where Mr Cull grew up.

It is thought that it may have lain dormant in his body for 50 years before he was hit by the car.

The condition meant he was in constant pain and doing regular things like cooking, taking a bath or going up stairs were extremely difficult.

He also endured cruel stares and taunts of people in the street, who dubbed him the ‘modern day Elephant man’. 

The former Nasa computer technician had been battling with doctors to get his leg amputated so he could lead a normal life.

Doctors in Hull were discussing surgery to remove the deformed tissue from his lower leg and return it to a more manageable size.

After he was told it would not go ahead he considered trying to raise £12,000 pounds to go to India for private treatment.

This was on top of the expense of buying specially-made shoes and trousers. 

Then, he was told he could have the operation in Scotland – but this operation was cancelled and he claims he was not told why. 

Ms Brooks, who lives in London, said Mr Cull would have gone to India but was worried about the flight coming home after having an operation abroad.

She said: ‘I think it could have been avoided, he has had this for more than 10 years and three or four years ago he was promised he could have it done.

‘It was all put in place then someone pulled the plug.

For years he had begged doctors to amputate his leg - but various operation had been cancelled. He considered raising £12,000 to fly to India for a private operation

For years he had begged doctors to amputate his leg – but various operation had been cancelled. He considered raising £12,000 to fly to India for a private operation

Mr Cull died last month after being rushed to hospital when his leg began bleeding. His friend Christina Brooks, 65, said he was in agonising pain and was given morphine

Mr Cull died last month after being rushed to hospital when his leg began bleeding. His friend Christina Brooks, 65, said he was in agonising pain and was given morphine

‘Michael could have been alive today.’

Mrs Brookes broke down in tears as she described her late friend. 

She said: ‘He was my best friend and the loveliest man I had ever met in my whole life.

‘He was a very intelligent bloke and loved doing his talks on astronomy. He was so kind, he did so many things for me, helping me paint and lay the carpet.

‘We had a very special plutonic relationship and were planning out our old age and what we were going to do.

‘Now his life has gone. I loved him to bits. I’m heartbroken, I really am.’

'Now his life has gone. I loved him to bits. I'm heartbroken, I really am,' Ms Brooks said of her friend's death

‘Now his life has gone. I loved him to bits. I’m heartbroken, I really am,’ Ms Brooks said of her friend’s death

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said they could not discuss Mr Cull’s case due to patient confidentiality. 

She added: ‘NHS Grampian extends condolences to the family of Mr Cull.

‘If Mr Cull’s family or next of kin are in any way concerned about the care or treatment received, then we would urge them to contact our Feedback service and we will respond to them directly.’ 

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, said: “I would like to extend my condolences to Mr Cull’s friends and family at what will doubtless be a very difficult time.”

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