Cullercoats man speaks about ‘going through hell’ after infection

Stewart Vine.
Stewart Vine.

A businessman from Cullercoats has told of how a dip in a holiday swimming pool cost him his career and marriage.

Stewart Vine splashed out on a Caribbean holiday to a luxury resort, but a quick swim was all it took to change his life forever – leaving him with a partially amputated foot and a career on the skids. He cut his foot on the pool floor that later got infected, causing his toe to turn black with sepsis.

His ex-wife Sarah was told to prepare for the worst by doctors, but luckily they managed to save him by amputating his little toe on his left foot.

However, after taking eight months to recover, he says he was forced to close his successful courier business and give up his career as a financial sales manager – and also split with his wife.

The 57-year-old said: “This has robbed me of my life. If I could turn back the clock and not get in that pool and have my toe back, I would do it in a heartbeat.

“Before the injury I had everything and now I have nothing.

“I had hoped to grow old with my wife, but that’s gone now as the stress of this caused our marriage to break up.

“All it took was getting in that pool on my holiday to ruin my life. This is a living hell.

“Everything went wrong after my foot got infected and I had to have that op to remove my toe. You go on holiday to have a rest, you don’t expect to end up losing a body part.

“Everyday when I look down it is a reminder of what I have lost. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy.

“It is a struggle as my foot still throbs and aches everyday. It’s never ending pain. I don’t want any other person going through the hell I am now in.”

Mr Vine had been looking forward to his week-long £2,000 holiday in Antigua in September 2016 with ex-wife Sarah.

They had expected a luxury break after booking with British Airways (BA).

But when they arrived at the Jolly Beach Resort and Spa, they were less than happy as things were not as they expected.

Mr Vine said: “It wasn’t very clean and not want I had expected at all. The room was dirty and was in need of a complete overhaul.

“The bedsheets were stained and the mattress had springs poking out. We complained to the hotel manager and got moved rooms two days later, although that had things wrong as well. But as we were there, I thought we may as well as make the best of it.”

On the fourth day of his holiday, he decided to swim in the hotel pool.

He said : “I felt my toe get pricked by something on the bottom of the pool like when you have an injection or stub your toe. It really hurt.”

When he got out of the pool he saw it was a “small” minor cut, so he thought nothing of it and after putting on some antiseptic cream and a plaster they warned the hotel to tell other guests and he carried on with his holiday.

But a few nights later after a romantic dinner and an evening cabaret, he woke in the middle of the night covered in sweat.

He said: “The sheets were soaked as if someone had thrown water over them. I had some cold water and pills and later picked up.”

Mr Vine said they tried to complain to their rep, but found there wasn’t anybody from BA around so they had to call a helpline back in the UK.

He then seemed to improve but on the flight home he felt unwell again.

He said: “I couldn’t eat, I felt sick and I was sweating and shivering. But my ex-wife was a nurse and she looked after me.”

When they landed at Gatwick, Mr Vine said he felt a bit better, but they still had a 300-mile trip back to their home in Cullercoats.

Half-way through their journey, he cried out in pain.

He said: “My ex was driving and I shouted out as my foot felt like it was on fire.

“I looked down and my toe was black and it looked like the black was spreading over my foot, so we rushed to the nearest hospital.”

Medics at the Leicester Royal Infirmary inspected his injured foot and a scan showed it was septic. Doctors told him that without emergency medicine, he could have died.

He said: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – all from a little scratch on my toe.”

After being given some strong antibiotics, he went to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle before being transferred for surgery to the Freeman Hospital in the same city.

It was there doctors told him the devastating news that they now had to operate and amputate part of his left foot to save his life.

Mr Vine said: “I was absolutely petrified and in shock – all of this was just from going on holiday.

“The doctors said if I wanted to live it had to come off as the infection was spreading. I didn’t have a choice.”

After a two-hour operation he came out of theatre, but it had left a gaping wound where his toe and part of his left foot had been.

He added: “I looked down and cried – it looked like something out of a horror movie. It was disgusting.

“It looked like a shark had taken a large bite out of my foot and left a massive hole.”

He was then sent home and had to take 16 pills a day but despite this, two months later he contracted a bone infection and had to wear a special foot guard.

Mr Vine added: “I was totally gutted. I had to wear a special boot cover over my foot and the specialist told me that I couldn’t move it or the rest of my body would turn black like my toe.

“It was terrifying being told that when you thought it was all over.”

To add insult to injury, the wound took more than eight months in total to recover, forcing him to give up the business he loved and had spent 20 years building up.

He said: “I loved my courier business, but I just couldn’t do it anymore as it required me to be on my feet all the time and I just physically couldn’t do it.

“I also had a job as a finance manager for an Australian firm and had to quit that as well.”

As the wound finally closed, the strain of what happened eventually led to him and his wife of seven years separating.

He added: “I went from having everything to nothing. I was very down and depressed.

“The stress and arguments led to us splitting up. This wound has cost me everything I held dear in my life.”

Now Mr Vine is trying to re-build his life and says after months of trying to reason with BA about his injury, he has now decided to take legal action.

He added: “My life has been ruined, but what makes it worse is that the travel company simply don’t care about what has happened to me. I walk with a slight limp now.

“But this is not about the money, it’s about the principle.”

Travel lawyer James Blower of Simpson Millar is handling his claim and says that his firm has dealt with hundreds of cases of swimming pool related injuries.

He added: “Unfortunately, getting injuries and infections from hotel swimming pools is quite common.

“This has been a terrible ordeal for Mr Vine. It has greatly affected all aspects of his life.

“Swimming pools need to be regularly maintained and clear of obstacles and tour operators need to do more to ensure their facilities are safe.”

A spokesman for British Airways said: “We are very sorry to hear that Mr Vine has been so unwell.

“As the case is legally actively, it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”