- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Flesh-Eating Disease AKA Necrotizing Fasciitis
Flesh Eating Disease
My personal story of how I ended up getting flesh eating disease, what happened, treatment, and my hospital stay. Thankfully there is a happy ending to this story.
Opening my eyes, about to do my big okay I am awake now stretch of the morning, I felt in my right arm a really strange pain. It was like nothing I had felt before. I had not slept on it, or so I thought. My 18-month-old son was also awake and wanted out of his crib. Getting up I tried to move my arm around thinking move it and the pain will go away. Boy was I wrong, as it just made it more painful. Walking over to my sons’ crib I reached in and tried to pick him up.
Quickly I put him back down and yelled for my husband Al who had not left for work yet. Standing in the doorway my husband asked me what was wrong.
“My arm is killing for some reason, can you lift Garth out of his crib for me?”
“Sure, but what’s wrong with your arm?”
“No idea, but it really hurts”.
“Go take a hot shower and let the water pound on your arm, that will make it feel better.”
The shower did absolutely nothing for my arm, and I told Al it was hurting so much that I thought I should go see the doctor, and asked him if he could drop Garth off at the sitters before going to work. To do nothing and just wait this out was pointless as I needed to be able to pick my son up, and with my arm hurting so bad I would be unable to do so. I could see by the look on his face he thought that I was being a big baby and that I should just suck it up and go about my day. He said he would drop Garth off if I could get an appointment. Luckily my doctor said he could fit me in for a quick appointment if I got there right away.
While waiting to see the doctor I looked down at my forearm noticing that it was starting to swell. Well something is defiantly up with this I thought to myself.
“Well Susan what seems to be the problem today?”, asked Dr. McAllister
“My arm really hurts, it's swelling, and I am unable to pick the baby up.”
“Let’s just have a look.”
The doctor gets me to bend my arm while he pokes and prods away, seeing what hurts. Everything he did to my arm hurt.
“Do you have cuts on your arm or hand?”
“I don’t think so, oh hold on, I have one on my finger, why?”
“Just sit tight a minute, I’ll be right back.”
Off he goes leaving me sitting there puzzled.
Dr. McAllister returns with another doctor that worked in the same building and that doctor has a look. He says, “I wouldn't be alarmed, doesn't really look like anything other than an arm that’s a bit swollen, just go home and rest it.”
This did not satisfy Dr. McAllister as he'd just recently been reading up on flesh-eating disease, and was genuinely concerned about my arm. “Susan I want you to go over to emergency at the hospital. I am going to call ahead to let them know you are coming."
Before going to the hospital I stopped in at home to check on things and saw that Al was still home. “So what did the doctor say?”
"He wants me to go over to emergency and get it checked out."
"Oh okay then I'll drive you, and go into work after we know what is wrong with your arm."
Upon arriving at emergency to check in I was immediately whisked into a private examining room. Thinking to myself this is really strange, usually I have to sit in emergency for hours. Blood was taken, blood pressure done, temperature taken, and in came the doctor.
"Looks to me like you have flesh eating disease", he said after examining my arm. I had recently watched a show on TV about this and thought oh great.
"We're going to have to admit you, and get you on antibiotics right away to try and get rid of the infection."
By this point my arm had swollen to double its size, was really red, and looking as if the skin was about to split open.
I was admitted into a quarantined room, hooked up to an I.V., and had ice packs around my arm to try to get some of the swelling down. About every hour a nurse would come in to check on me. At some point the skin on my arm had split. It was not a pretty sight.
I must have been an unusual case as there were five people milling around me in masks, all looking at my arm. Later I found out that two were doctors, one was a dermatologist and two were students. When they finally all left one of the doctors told Al he wanted to talk to him out in the hall. Really confused as to what all the fuss was about, I laid there wondering what they were talking about. I felt pretty crappy as I had a high temperature, and my arm was in a lot of pain, and was wishing they'd give me something stronger than Tylenol 3’s. I did not find out until I was released as to what the conversation was about between the doctor and Al. Apparently they told Al that they may need to amputate my right arm if the antibiotics did not do the trick. He couldn’t believe it and said to them “My God, she has already lost her breasts to cancer and now you are telling me she may lose her right arm too”. “How much does my wife have to go through?”
The swelling did start to go down after about three days, and I ended up staying in the hospital a week. When I was released I had to continue taking antibiotics for six weeks. Got to keep my arm after all. Phew! Just never know what one little cut on your finger can do to you. Every time I get a cut now I grab hydrogen peroxide and douse it.
I was the first or second person in Orillia to get flesh eating disease, and I thank God that my doctor acted quickly, and got me the treatment that I needed right away. If I'd not gone to emergency that day I would have lost my arm or worse. Shortly after this happened to me, Lucien Bouchard, the Premiere of Quebec, in 1994, sadly lost his leg due to the same thing.
Flesh-Eating Disease is a bacterial skin infection that appears swollen and red. It is hot and tender and will spread rapidly. If not attended to immediately the infection may spread and become life-threatening. It is caused from bacteria entering the skin through a cut or crack. Insect and spider bites can also transmit the infection.