'Look at all the machines keeping me alive' - TV presenter Charlie Webster speaks to her family as she wakes from malaria coma
The television presenter Charlie Webster “nearly died” after contracting malaria during a charity bike ride to the Rio de Janeiro and was in intensive care in hospital on Thursday night.
Webster, 33, was due to be working for Facebook in Rio, conducting interviews with British athletes at Team GB headquarters, but fell ill during the opening ceremony of Rio 2016, shortly after arriving following a 3,000-mile charity ride that began at London’s Olympic stadium.
The former Sky Sports presenter was initially diagnosed with a kidney problem, but after doctors discovered she had malaria her condition deteriorated. She was placed in an induced coma on Wednesday night to improve her chances of survival.
On Thursday doctors in Rio brought her out of the coma and she was able to speak to her family, but she remains seriously ill.
Her mother Joy said: “Charlotte knows she nearly died. She mouthed to me earlier 'look at all the machines keeping me alive'. Charlotte is really strong but as the doctors keep reminding me, everyone heals differently. I am just so thankful that she’s able to communicate with us again.
"It’s been the worst imaginable time - we have been beside ourselves with worry, but the fact Charlotte is now conscious is amazing. Knowing Charlotte, the thing she’ll be most annoyed about is that she's missed the Olympics. She will be especially gutted not to have seen Nicola Adams fight today - there’s a TV on the wall, so hopefully she can at least watch the Women's Boxing final.”
A spokeswoman for Charlie said “Charlie's family and friends have been incredibly touched by the overwhelming support and love shown to Charlie today. Their main focus now is for Charlie to be stable enough to fly back to the UK."
“Knowing Charlotte, the thing she’ll be most annoyed about is that she's missed the Olympics.”
Miss Webster, the former girlfriend of Allen Leech, who played chauffeur Tom Branson in Downton Abbey, had cycled from London to Rio, starting on June 27, to raise funds for the Jane Tomlinson Foundation.
She and was due to stay on in Rio as part of Team GB's Great Britons campaign alongside Nick Grimshaw and Jodie Kidd.
Doctors at the London School of Tropical Medicine have been consulted over her treatment and her family is confident she is getting the best help possible. Although her kidneys are still not responding to treatment and she remains on dialysis, doctors are “very happy” with her neurological results.
She arrived in the Brazilian capital on August 4 and appeared to be in good health. She was attending the Olympic Opening Ceremony the following evening when she started feeling unwell.
The marathon runner shared her frustration with her fans on social media the day after she was admitted to hospital on Saturday August 6, writing: "6 weeks on the road ends in this. Very rough day, severe dehydration & infection - 2 drips & antibiotics #Rio."
But Webster remained positive, telling fans on August 9: "I'm getting there ... awful few days with serious infection #Rio."
She posted a photo showing her lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a drip, but smiling, adding later: "Looking forward to being a part of @TeamGB here at #Rio2016."
However, Webster made no more posts and a statement on her Facebook and Twitter profiles on August 11 revealed how her condition had worsened.
It said: "Charlie has updated you all throughout her cycle and we know her silence was causing concern.
"On Saturday, 6th August, Charlie became unwell and was admitted to hospital in Rio de Janeiro.
"What was initially thought as dehydration, caused by her riding to Rio, has since been diagnosed as a severe complication caused by a bacterial infection.
The Ride to Rio campaign wished Webster a speedy recovery via Twitter, describing her as a "tough lady".
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are providing support to a British woman who is in hospital in Rio."