A teenager struck down by E.coli after visiting a Christmas market is “lucky to be alive”.

Antonia Hay spent two weeks in intensive care with Shiga toxin-associated haemolytic uraemic syndrome (STEC-HUS).

She has had multiple operations, including having part of her bowel removed.

It is thought she may have contracted the bug at a festive fair held in Great Missenden, Bucks.

Older sister Jemima said Antonia, 17, was “lucky to be alive” and called the situation “an absolute nightmare”.

She wrote on GoFundMe: “[Antonia] has continued to show amazing determination and strength throughout this time. She is the youngest person to ever be admitted into the ICU ward.”

“She is the most kind, caring, outgoing person and lights up any room she walks into.”

“Despite going through the toughest time in her life, all she has cared about is everybody else and how they are feeling, still trying to make everybody laugh.”

Medics let Antonia spend Christmas Day at home with her family, who had not left her side, before she returned to the ward on Boxing Day due to her kidney failure.

Jemima fears that the damage may ruin dancer Antonia’s ambition to be an actress.

She added: “She feels as if her dreams have been ripped away from her. Her studies on her performing arts course will be severely impacted.”

Jemima is seeking funds for Antonia’s future and to cover costs while their parents are out of work. Their dad asked online if other people had similar health problems at the time.

His plea read: “To anyone who may have experienced food poisoning symptoms at any restaurant, establishment or any market stall in Great Missenden during the Christmas Market, particularly on or from 25th Nov, please can you [private message] me, as my middle daughter (17) is fighting for her life after a serious bacterial infection (E-coli) suspected from eating something around this time.”

“Just need to know if anyone else was affected with any level of stomach issues or illness.”

The pub where Antonia works shared the GoFundMe link, writing: “We want to do our part and take care of her, the same way she has taken care of her colleagues and guests since joining the Britannia. Get well soon.”

The NHS says very few people develop STEC-HUS from this strain of E.coli. It can be caught by eating contaminated food, touching infected animals, via contact with contaminated people and by drinking, or swimming in, infected water.

The appeal beat its target of £5,000 in a day – last night the total was nearly £9,000. The family said: “This money will help her immensely with her ongoing treatment.”

Details at gofundme.com/f/support-for-antonia-during-this-tough-time