Sydney woman's leg amputated after 'harmless' spider bite

Kristal Joseph, 29, was only walking from her home to her car when she felt a pinch on her foot.

WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES: A Sydney mum has endured months of health complications and a below-knee amputation from what was believed to be a bite from a spider she "thought was harmless".

In February, Kristal Joseph, 29, was leaving her Jordan Springs home in western Sydney when a white-tailed spider is suspected to have bitten her on the foot.

"She was only walking across a patch of grass from the house to the car wearing thongs," her partner Callum Joseph told Yahoo News Australia.

Callum and Kristal Joseph can be seen posing for a formal photoshoot before the spider bite took place in Febuary..
Callum Joseph said his partner was simply walking to her car from their home when she felt a spider bite her foot. Source: Supplied

What started as a small ulcer on the sole of her foot escalated into necrosis and a "nasty infection", with Kristal undergoing 10 different debridement surgeries to remove the dead tissue. Doctors hoped scraping away the infected tissue would aid recovery, however the infection was "rampant".

'Seriously, seriously ill'

The infection, which spread into Kristal's "tendons, ligaments and bone", caused the 29-year-old to suffer stage 5 renal failure and she was placed into intensive care. On May 18, doctors performed a leg amputation to save her life.

Two pictures of Kristal's foot can be seen with deep swelling and necrosis.
Ulceration and necrosis continued to worsen on Kristal's left foot following the spider bite in February. Source: Supplied

"We're taking one day at a time," Callum said, explaining what the last week has been like for the family. "Four of our five children live at home with us... She's home now from hospital which is better for the kids."

Kristal is now going through the process of getting a prosthetic leg fitted and is expected to receive a walking aid in the next two months. A GoFundMe page has been created by her relative Nicole Rugendyke to raise funds for the family while they navigate the difficult life change.

"Kristal never, ever complains. She faces these challenges with courage and composure," she wrote. "She never likes to draw attention to herself, make a fuss or ask for help."

White-tailed spider bite symptoms debated by experts

The Australian Museum on its website says white tailed spiders have been controversially implicated in causing severe skin ulcerations in humans. A spider bite from this species is known to cause burning and swelling, it says. Some people have suffered more severe side-effects, known medically as necrotising arachnidism.

White-tailed spiders can be seen, with a black-greyish body and brown legs.
White-tailed spiders are common in Australia and relatively small in size. Source: Getty

The reasons why some people develop more extensive skin lesions are unknown, according to the University of Melbourne. It may be that only some species of white-tailed spiders are associated with skin necrosis, and early investigations suggesting the spider's sex or geographic location could be determining factors. However some spider experts dispute claims that white-tailed spiders are responsible for necrotic ulcers.

These spiders are commonly found in houses across Australia, appearing black-greyish in colour with brown legs and are relatively small, measuring up to only three centimetres.

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