A British woman has described in detail the moment she discovered headaches and scratching sounds in her head were caused by flesh-eating maggots.
Derbyshire resident Rochelle Harris had just returned from a holiday in Peru when she began developing shooting pains in her face.
The 27-year-old initially thought little of it, and assumed the problem would quickly disappear, but the following day she woke to find a strange liquid covering her pillow and began hearing scratching sounds coming from inside her head.
Increasingly concerned by the discomfort, Ms Harris decided to visit the Accident and Emergency department at the Royal Derby Hospital, but was told the problem was likely to be a simple ear infection or mosquito bite.
It was only after she was referred to the local Ear, Nose and Throat clinic for an hour-long examination that was intended to confirm the infection, that the sickening truth of the problem became clear.
Speaking to the Discovery Channel for a new documentary series titled ‘Bugs, Bites and Parasites’, Ms Harris said: “My Mum asked her ‘Can you see what it is?’ and the doctor said ‘If you don't mind I'd prefer to speak to the registrar before I tell you anything’”.
She added: “My Mum said ‘Please tell us’ and that's when the doctor said ‘You've got maggots in your ear’. I burst into tears instantly… I was very scared - I wondered if they were in my brain. I thought to myself ‘This could be very, very serious’”.
The doctors immediately tried to remove the maggots from Ms Harris’ ear canal, but the deeper they probed the further the maggots went inside her head, eventually disappearing from sight.
A brain scan was swiftly ordered to work out where the maggots were hiding and exactly how many of them there were, as concerns grew that or more of them could reach the brain.
Had the maggots done so, doctors were concerned that they could cause meningitis or even lead to fatal internal bleeding or partial paralysis should they begin eating through nerves or blood vessels.
Despite the terrifying possibilities, the brain scan revealed the maggots burrowing inside Ms Harris’ head had left much of the area untouched, only chewing a 12mm hole in the ear canal.
Doctors decided the best course of treatment to remove the maggots was to flood the ear with olive oil.
Ms Harris said: “It was longest few hours of my life… I had to wait overnight to see if the treatment worked… I just wanted them out of me and now I knew what was causing the sensations and sounds it made it all the worse.”
Unfortunately the tactic failed, but the following day doctors were able to remove two living maggots that been flushed closer to the entrance of the ear.
Concerned that there may be another maggot they might have missed, doctors sedated Ms Harris and conducted a full re-examination of her ear.
They were shocked to discover a further eight large larvae – what they dubbed a “writhing mass of maggots” – but with the patient sedated and the creatures easier to reach following the olive oil experiment, the doctors were able to remove them.
Laboratory analysis found the larvae had been laid by a New World Army Screw Worm Fly, prompting Ms Harris to remember an incident in the Peruvian jungle where she had walked through a swarm of flies, with one landing in her ear for a few seconds.
Following the disturbing experience, Ms Harris said she had suffered no long-term medical problems and has in fact lost her mild phobia of creepy crawlies.
She said: 'I'm no longer as squeamish as I was about bugs - how can you be when they've been inside your head?'
WARNING: Video contains images which some readers may find disturbing
'Bugs, Bites and Parasites' airs on the Discovery Channel starts on July 21st at 10pm