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Mother's horrific allergic reaction to heart tattoo left her with growth so big she couldn't wear boots
Article by: UK Mail
November 25, 2013

A mother has been permanently scarred by a love heart tattoo she got in honour of her daughter.

Nicola Hickman, 37, had a severe allergic reaction to the tattoo on her ankle.

It became bumpy before breaking out into a large, excruciatingly painful growth.

Her allergy to the tattoo’s red ink was confirmed by doctors after the growth, which had become so large that it prevented her from wearing boots, was surgically removed.

She said: ‘I kept using antiseptic cream like I was told, and prayed the swelling would go down, but it didn’t.

‘I thought it was a mysterious reaction which would go away eventually, but it got to the point where I couldn’t bear it any more. Even just to touch it was really painful.’

Miss Hickman and her partner of 17 years Leslie Mkwah chose to get tattoos as permanent expressions of love for their seven-year-old daughter, Chenai.

Mr Mkwah, 37, a heating engineer, elected to have Chenai’s name tattooed on his back, while Miss Hickman, an accountant, chose a small heart-shaped design on her right ankle – it was her first tattoo.

She said: ‘I’d always wanted a tattoo and I like the heart image. I wanted it done for my daughter because I knew she would like it.

‘Getting the tattoo done wasn’t particularly painful. I managed to keep chatting while the tattoo artist worked.

‘At first it was fine. But then, six weeks later, I noticed that the tattoo was bumpy and the red colour was fading.

‘I went back to the tattooist to ask his opinion, and he said he would be happy to top up the colour when the bumps went down. He advised using antiseptic cream.

‘But the weeks went on and it got worse. I tried to ignore it, but it got to the point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t wear proper footwear and I couldn’t sleep on it.’

Eventually Miss Hickman, of Greenwich, London, went to see a doctor.

In June 2013, 11 months after she had the tattoo done, she was referred to St Thomas’ Hospital in central London where specialists were able to remove the flaky growth, which was by now protruding from her ankle.

She said: ‘The dermatologists took one look at it and were shocked. They’d never seen an allergic reaction like it before. They took pictures which they wanted to use for a report in a medical journal.

‘The surgeon who removed the growth tried to make it so the scar was heart-shaped. She said, “Nicola wanted a heart, so let’s try and give her a heart”. They looked after me really well.’

Unfortunately, the wound took longer than anticipated to heal and a month after the operation Miss Hickman spent two days in hospital fighting an infection.

She said: ‘When I had the operation they had to leave me with an open wound. They couldn’t do skin grafts because of the position of nerves and a nearby artery. I needed to change the dressings constantly.’

She is now left with a four centimetre scar on her ankle.

She said: ‘I’ve had another tattoo done of my daughter’s name in black ink on my neck and I’ve never had any problems with it.

‘They’re still not sure what it was in the red ink which caused the allergic reaction. It might have been a metallic chemical. My ankle’s still not perfectly healed, but I’m glad the growth has gone.’


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