Under the Skin – Flesh Eating Bacteria Story


This flesh-eating bacteria,
it moves very quickly. And it’s very difficult to
make this diagnosis early. It’s hard to believe how your
life can be turned upside down. This is a condition where people
can go from just fine to dead within about 24 hours. Just to think how
fragile life this. One minute we’re all here,
and the next minute you can be gone. It was a Friday, and I felt
like I was getting a cold. And I’m very stubborn, don’t
believe in going to doctors. All of a sudden, my left arm
started really throbbing. And then she told me time
to go to the hospital. We got her to the
Memorial Hermann Katy. And they got her right in. There’s always certain
cases where you just get this gut feeling,
and in her case, if I just looked
objectively at the lab tests and the EKG x-ray, I
would think oh, she looks fine. Send her home. I could feel that something
wasn’t quite right, so I thought the
best thing to do was to bring her
into the hospital, and there may be other symptoms
or lab tests that will point us in a certain direction. So he said we’re going to
admit you for observation. So we moved her up to the
room, and her gown slid down on her shoulder a little bit. And that’s when you
could see the rash. Now she didn’t have
a rash which she was examined in the ER room,
so that was a real rapid onset. I now saw cellulitis,
and the fact that it wasn’t
only one red spot, but included most
of her shoulder and upper side of her
chest was really concerned. So Dr. Yancey came in
to see the patient. Just looking at her, I could
see that she was very critically ill. I’ve never seen my
mom look so bad. She looked horrible. She just– she was swollen. She was– she just
didn’t look like herself. There’s no one specific test
for nectrotizing fasciitis. It’s a bunch of hints
that you put together. I knew we needed to get
surgery on board right then. We moved very quickly,
as our suspicion was high that she had
flesh-eating bacteria. The infection was
spreading very rapidly. We know that we need to
get that patient taken care of as quickly as possible. I was holding her hand,
and she looked up at me and said am I going to die? I didn’t know how
to answer that. I didn’t want to lie to her. When she went to surgery, I
didn’t know if she’d come back. And then you have the
selfish things– the my kids losing their grandmother,
losing my mom, and my dad not having her. It’s a challenging
disease to treat because the diagnosis
isn’t confirmed until you get to the operating room. The tissues were very swollen. We could see there was a
lot of fluid in the area. And that’s a hallmark of
these kind of infections. So once we got in
there, it was clear that we were doing what needed
to be done right at that time. So everything went
very smoothly. We were able to get the
infection under control, we were able to debride
any of the dead tissue that was in the area, and
get her back to the ICU for antibiotics and
further wound care. When Dr. Farrow came out,
he was very confident that everything was
going to be fine, and that was the first
time that I felt we were going to get through this. I was so enormously relieved
when she came out of surgery. She had incisions on her
arm and also on her upper back to make sure the infection
hadn’t begun to spread. It’s critical that we
look at all those areas at least once a day to make
sure that the tissue is staying healthy, to make sure that the
blood flow in the area is good. And make sure that
they’re beginning to heal. She needed prolonged antibiotics
and prolonged wound care. With the help of hyperbarics
and the topical treatments, and she was already on
antibiotic treatments, her wound bed always
had a positive effect, every single visit. She did it. She went to every
single treatment, she didn’t miss a treatment. After 52 hyperbarics,
I was finished. And since then, I started
feeling really back to myself. We have been concentrating
on spending time together, and thankful that
we have the time. There’s always a few cases
you get in your career where later, you still
think about them, and over time
change who you are. That’s what I love
about this specialty, is we get to fix people. Now I don’t hesitate
to go to the doctor, because I know
some great doctors.

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