Dancer bitten by mosquito on holiday wakes up with no arms or legs
Awoman who woke up with no arms and no legs after returning from a holiday and falling ill has said she is just "grateful to be alive". Tatiana Timon is all smiles as she opens the door of her new ground-floor flat in Camberwell, South London - despite the concentration required for her to carry out this simple task.
It is less than a year since Tatiana - a former dancer and restaurant worker - became a quadruple amputee, after the dance holiday of a lifetime ended horribly. In May 2022, Tatiana joined a dance group on a trip to Angola in central Africa, to take her Kizomba to the next level in the country where it originated.
Tatiana described how she had the most "amazing" 10 days pursuing her passion in the south African country. But unknown to the 35-year-old, while abroad she had been bitten by a mosquito and contracted the "deadliest" form of Malaria. "I was clueless," said Tatiana, who admitted she should have checked the risks of travelling to Angola online, but said her mind was only focused on Covid at the time. It wasn't until a few days after she flew back to London that things began to escalate incredibly quickly.
She described how after returning to London she fell off her bike on the way to work. Though not badly injured, she decided to stay with a friend for a few days to recover - but within days she had become so weak and feverish that she couldn't make it to the bathroom by herself.
Tatiana's friend called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital, where tests confirmed it was not the bike accident but a deadly form of Malaria causing her symptoms. The illness rapidly worsened, and within hours Tatiana was put in an induced coma. While she doesn't remember any of what happened next, Tatiana said her friends and family watched on helplessly as the Malaria turned into sepsis - blood poisoning.
Speaking to MyLondon at her new home this week, she said: "All of my friends and my family were worried because the doctor was telling them that I was going to die, like I was about to die three times." Tatiana said her work even paid for her father to fly to London from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean to "say goodbye".
Tatiana, who maintains she only survived because of how fit she had kept herself, explained that to prevent the sepsis spreading to her vital organs, doctors had to amputate all four of her limbs. The memories are hazy, and Tatiana can only recall snapshots - like being wheeled into an operating theatre and seeing a "big saw" before the operation to remove her lower legs.
She said: "When I woke up from the coma I knew, I saw that I was in hospital, and I knew something happened to me. But at that time I didn't know how bad it was, like I just knew something had happened."
Tatiana remembered the nurses had put a board opposite her bed, decorated with a picture of herself and her own name, as well as facts about her, like the fact that she was born in Réunion Island before moving to London eight years ago.
The dancer said at first when the nurses offered to help her with tasks, like holding her phone so she could call people, she'd say "I can do it myself… I can hold the phone, it's fine, just do your job". It took a while before her situation really sunk in.
"It's really hard to explain," said Tatiana, who said physical movement felt like a mental block, rather than a physical impossibility, at first. She explained: "I knew my body was there but I just couldn't move it. It was like, when you're in your bed and you don't want to move."
In the weeks and months since, Tatiana has had to begin the slow process of accepting her new body - and adapting to it. Her friends, family, and entire community have been left awestruck by her unshakeable positivity through it all.
"I've always been positive, I'll make a joke about anything," said Tatiana. "A negative thing I can turn into a positive thing to make my life easier, because I don't like stress." Shrugging, she added: "It happened, so I need to deal with it."
Tatiana is still learning to do basic daily tasks, like use the washing machine and cook for herself - but she is determined to become 100 per cent independent. Already moving gracefully on her new prosthetic legs, the dancer has recently learnt to make coffee with no hands.
"It's not going to stop me doing my thing," said Tatiana, who hopes to start dancing and hitting the gym again once she’s mastered the basics - a feat which should be possible, thanks to the fast-acting doctors who were able to amputate her limbs below the joints, giving her much more mobility.
"What happened to me changed me; changed me inside," said Tatiana, who said she feels wiser, like she's 10 years older. "I have the support of my friends, my family. I'm just grateful I'm alive," she said. "Just being grateful is enough."
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