The 32-year-old was on a canoeing trip ‘of a lifetime’ with friends to South East Africa, travelling from Zambia to Zimbabwe.
They made a five-day stopover in Malawi, where they swam on Lake Malawi, before flying back to the UK.
But unbeknownst to James, a parasitic flatworms called schistosomes had crawled inside his penis and laid eggs in his vital organs.
‘When I look back at photos from my time in Africa, it’s weird to think that’s where the parasite crawled up my penis,’ James told the Sun.
Over a year after his trip in August 2017, James noticed a loss of feeling in his legs, and struggled to complete tasks like walking up stairs.
Neurologists told him his immune system was attacking his spine, and put him on a six-month course of steroids, although the doctors still didn’t know what had actually caused this.
Doctors from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases eventually told James he had contracted schistosomiasis – also known as bilharzia – a parasitic worm that had crawled up his penis and laid eggs in his body.
James was proscribed medication called praziquantel that kills the worms.
‘That killed the infection but I was left basically debilitated. They told me there was a 30 per cent chance I’d make a full recovery – 10 years from now,’ he added.