Gemma Fraser is a 35-year-old mother and journalist from Edinburgh, Scotland. She recently shared a scary story about her daughter on social media, and now parents all over the world are taking heed. At first, it’s hard to believe her situation was a matter of life and death. But that’s exactly why parents should pay close attention to what Gemma has to say.
Gemma’s daughter Orla was three months old when she noticed her tiny toes looked frighteningly different than normal. Two of her toes in particular were swelling up like crazy and turning red, then purple. The worried mom assumed Orla was having some sort of strange allergic reaction.
But upon taking a closer look, Gemma realized one of her own blonde strands of hair had somehow tied itself around Orla’s toes, which cut off her circulation “like a cheese wire.” The strand was so tightly wound around two of the toes that Gemma couldn’t even pull them off without Orla crying and screaming in pain.
Gemma didn’t know it at the time, but her daughter had a severe case of hair tourniquet syndrome, in which a hair or thread becomes tied to an appendage and cuts off circulation. This can lead to a nasty infection or even amputation!
After Gemma called 911, a paramedic spent 45 minutes pulling most of the hair off of Orla’s toes using a small pair of scissors. Doctors at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children said Orla was in the clear and sent her home with an antibiotic cream. One of the toes began to heal while the other still looked like it was “cut in half.”
As the weeks passed by, Orla’s toe became infected and was significantly larger than her other “normal” toes. Gemma had a nagging feeling there was still something terribly wrong and was referred to the plastic surgery unit at her hospital. According to a nurse, there was still hair keeping the toe from healing properly. Orla was scheduled for surgery later that day.
The surgeon felt Orla was too young for general anesthetic, so he used an anesthetic numbing wipe before cutting into her toe and scraping around the tendon to remove any hair surrounding the – and there was a buildup of bacteria and hair. Orla was in such pain during the procedure, but Gemma knew how serious the matter had become.
Following another round of antibiotics, the wound finally healed.
Gemma shared the frightening experience on Facebook where it went viral, and that wasn’t all. Soon she was being interviewed by magazines across the world! She couldn’t believe it was such a popular story.
“The story of my wee Orla’s poor toes has grown arms and legs! Who knew it was such a rare phenomenon that – literally – the whole world would be posting stories about it (New Zealand, South Korea and Indonesia to name a few…)”
Orla, now one-year-old, has a tiny scar from her five-week ordeal.
In an interview with FEMAIL, Gemma encouraged parents everywhere to pay close attention to the warning signs of hair tourniquet syndrome:
“It’s amazing to think a hair that’s fallen out of my head can cause so much damage. I just want people to be aware that this can happen. Especially as mothers can shed hair postpartum. There will be a lot of hair lying around people’s houses. ‘I want people to have a quick check when they are giving a bath or changing a nappy. Check that you can put a finger in the space between each finger and each toe. Hair can also get trapped in a sock or in a bay grow so be careful. We were just lucky that we got the hair cut off on time before it caused permanent damage – or worse.”