While Bob was lying in bed at Shepherd Center Brain Rehab in Atlanta, I had gone to see him day and night for about 3 1/2 months. Along the way I became very run down from lack of sleep and the tremendous stress. I cut my leg in our new pool and woke up just a few days later with the very rare Group A Strep or flesh eating bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis). This perfect storm of all medical emergencies resulted in sneaky symptoms that masked themselves completely like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, causing excruciating pain as the toxic bacteria tore at whirlwind speed (1 inch per hour) through the subcutaneous tissues in my left leg and thigh.
Flesh Eating Bacteria is a Killer Disease
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 that was happened to me with no loud symptoms or warning. My kids will never forget when the Hospitalist told them I had a 5 percent chance of living just days after we celebrated our young grandson’s birthday.
Amputation is Common
The other news: 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 young 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.