Woman, 22, left fighting for life after swimming in sewage polluted sea leaves her with rare condition

The 22-year-old battled a life threatening condition after taking a dip in the sea

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A mother has described the “absolutely horrendous” ordeal her daughter experienced after swimming in sewage off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales last summer.

Caitlin Edwards, 22, developed a rare life-threatening condition where she needed multiple blood transfusions and dialysis after she went swimming for hours at Amroth.

Caitlin developed E. coli which led to haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a rare condition damaging her kidneys, after untreated sewage had been released at the site she went swimming.

Her mother, Jayne Etherington, told NationalWorld that her daughter was in hospital for three weeks, gradually began to recover and was then given the all clear regarding her kidney infection by December.

Jayne is furious about the fact sewage was allowed to enter the sea at Wiseman’s Bridge on 24 August last year, just a few hundred metres away from Amroth and popular spots for holidaymakers.

At the time it was reported that storm sewage had been discharged at four popular Welsh beaches, including Wiseman’s Bridge and nearby Saundersfoot.

Woman left fighting for life after swimming in sewage polluted sea. (Photo: Jayne Etherington) Woman left fighting for life after swimming in sewage polluted sea. (Photo: Jayne Etherington)
Woman left fighting for life after swimming in sewage polluted sea. (Photo: Jayne Etherington)

Welsh Water combined storm overflows (CSOs) were held responsible but Jayne said they believed it was a CSO spill as “no one said ‘this is something more serious’.”

Jayne said there were no signs warning swimmers at Amroth, only at Wiseman’s Bridge where the sewage spill had occurred. Caitlin and her mother were both unaware of the spill and so her daughter went for a dip.

Afterwards, Caitlin started to feel very unwell and experienced severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea. After five days she checked herself into A&E where she was diagnosed with E. coli and HUS.

Jayne said: “By the time they phoned me she was in resus. She’d gone from a happy, healthy vibrant 22-year-old to looking like she was going to die.

“We didn’t know she wasn’t. It was horrendous.”

Jayne said Public Health Wales (PHW) fully investigated Caitlin’s case and concluded that by far the most likely cause of the E. coli infection was from swimming in polluted seas at Amroth after the sewage spill at Wiseman’s Bridge.

Welsh Water confirmed that the source of that particular spill was not from one of their assets while PCC said it had placed warning signs on the beach "acting on information received regarding a pollution incident from Natural Resources Wales".

Nicola Mills, the environment team leader for NRW, said their investigation into the pollution incident at Wiseman’s Bridge concluded that “the effluent discharge was due to a private discharge point failure”.

She said that the owners of the private discharge point “acted immediately to resolve the issue as soon as possible” and “our officers have visited the area since and there have been no further concerns witnessed or reported.”

Ms Mills added: “Around the same time there was also an ongoing CSO discharge therefore it was not possible to pinpoint sole responsibility for the failure of bathing water sampling at Wiseman’s Bridge."

Ms Mills said that both Amroth and Wiseman’s Bridge were sampled on the same day and results showed that there was a “failure in water quality at Wiseman’s Bridge but not at Amroth”.

Doctors advised Caitlin she might want to defer her final year at university, but she went on to make a full recovery and completed her English and Spanish degree.