As I was being rushed to emergency surgery, the surgeon explained that the very rare Group A Strep or flesh eating bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis) had worked itself all throughout my left leg—starting at a small cut on my calf to my foot to my upper thigh.
This perfect storm of all medical emergencies results in sneaky symptoms that mask themselves completely like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, causing excruciating pain as the toxic bacteria tear at whirlwind speed (1 inch per hour) through the subcutaneous tissues.
Flesh eating bacteria destroys everything in its path. A very rare disease, fewer than 1,000 cases of flesh eating bacteria are reported in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, roughly 73 percent of people who get necrotizing fasciitis die because the bacteria that destroys the body’s soft tissue spreads and attacks vital organs so swiftly. And now that was happening to me.
I later learned that the flesh-eating bacteria is often caused by the same bacterium that causes strep throat. Ironically, two of my granddaughters had strep throat the weekend prior when I scraped my leg in our new pool, although my infectious disease doctors were quick to refute this theory and say I got a bad bug on my hand and wiped it on my leg.
And if you don’t die from flesh eating bacteria, chances are great that you will leave the hospital as an amputee (no arms, legs, hands or feet). Case in point: Muppet creator Jim Henson died from flesh eating disease in 1990; former Quebec Premier Loucien Bouchard had his left leg amputated in 2004 due to flesh eating disease;and Georgia college student Aimee Copeland lost all limbs as a result of this flesh eating bacteria after a zip line accident sliced her leg in 2012.
In fact, as I was wheeled to the operating room, the surgeon said, “Deb, We may take your leg …or you might lose your life.”
And then I went down and drifted into a deep, deep coma.
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