Keen bird-watcher Ellen Walsh came home from a trip to Central America with more than happy memories and holiday snaps.
A creepy-crawly was happily growing in one of her toes and feeding off her flesh.
The maggot was surgically removed, put in a bottle ... and nicknamed Percy by hospital staff.
Accountant Ellen, 47, and her partner Phillip Wells had enjoyed an exotic bird-watching holiday in Panama.
It comprised of walks in the rain and cloud forest, the highlands, mangrove swamps and a few days on a near-deserted island in the Pacific Ocean.
“The ‘I’m A Celebrity’ mob would not have lasted two days,” said Ellen, “but we loved it with all the exotic birds, sloths, monkeys – and insects.”
However, soon after returning to their home in Rushey Green, Ringmer, she started to complain about a pain in her right foot.
An inspection revealed a small hole underneath her second toe.
She visited her doctor at the village’s Anchor Field Surgery where she was prescribed antibiotics and told to keep a watch on things.
But two days later the pain had become so bad that she could not drive her car.
The surgery promptly arranged an appointment at A&E in Eastbourne District General Hospital.
Builder Phillip, 54, said: “Her toe was inspected and and X-ray taken but nothing showed up.
“However, the fact that we had just come back from the jungles of Panama made staff a bit more concerned ... we’ve all seen Bear Grylls.”
The couple were asked to return to see a consultant the following day.
“Numerous doctors and nurses were looking at Ellen’s toe,” continued Phillip. “They thought they could see something in the hole – but as soon as they went near it disappeared.”
That afternoon the hospital decided to operate under general anaesthetic and plucked the ugly little critter out of her.
When Ellen came round, staff had bottled the beast for her inspection and christened it Percy.
It has been sent away for expert analysis, but is almost certainly a bot fly maggot.
And it got under Ellen’s skin by a circuitous route. The bot fly attaches its eggs to a blood-feeding insect such as a mosquito.
“When the host has a feed, this time on Ellen’s juicy toe, the larva is transferred,” said Phillip. “We now know the reason why the pain was so intense – the maggot was having a chew on her nerve endings.”
Ellen said: “I’m not a drama queen but it was quite a shock when I saw what had been growing inside me.”
She paid tribute to staff at Eastbourne DGH and the Anchor Field Surgery. “The care and attention from everybody has been fantastic,” she said. “We could not have asked for any more.”
Bot fly eggs stay just below the skin surface to breathe, and the most common treatment is to cut off their air supply with Vaseline – so they will crawl out. Untreated, they can burrow too far down and need to be cut out before they develop into flies.
The human bot fly is a large, densely haired fly that looks like a bumblebee.
It is native to Central and South America.
The bot fly egg is deposited by a mosquito or sometimes by another insect.
The larva grows in the host’s body until it is fairly large.
The fly is not known to transmit disease-causing pathogens, but the larva will infest the skin of mammals and live out the larval stage in the subcutaneous layer, causing painful pustules that secrete fluids.
The infestation of any fly larva inside the body is known as myiasis.