2018 will mark the 20 year anniversary of our victory in battle with necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria — thank God. This site has been up and running since about 1999 and we’ve been privileged to serve tens of thousands of visitors and correspond with hundreds of survivors, friends, family members, and others who just want to understand a little something about this intrusive, rude, cruel, virulent, deadly disease. Sometime around October 2017, I’ll be parking the flesheatingbacteria.net URL — If you would like to continue following our saga, the best place to go will be our Facebook page, Overcoming Necrotizing Fasciitis. I’ve also migrated all the pages and posts to my personal page at BoSalisbury.com.
I used to tell people, jokingly, that I spared them from necrotizing fasciitis because, statistically, it’s so rare that they will only meet one person with this disease in their lifetime. Well, I can’t say that again as a personal family/friend has just passed through the worst of a bout with that nasty, cruel bacteria. His elbow and arm were affected and he has made it through the worst. It looks like the infection is under control and his surgeon has just grafted his affected area and the grafts took. So, he’ll be going home this Friday.
He’s pretty beat up, but rallying back. I can’t overstate the value of having friends and family close by, going through this along with you and for you in prayer, care, and advocacy with the healthcare providers, even if the victim is “out” or in a coma.
This was a classic case, in which three events took place, which often don’t and end in disaster or even death. Our friend:
- Visited a pharmacist, who told him to go immediately and seek medical attention.
- Took the pharmacist’s direction and went to his local Emergency Room
- Was attended by a surgeon, who made the immediate diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis, stabilized him, debrided him, and sent him immediately to a large hospital with the facilities and personnel to handle this sort of thing.
Thank God, he not only survived, but received excellent care and a good result!
When it comes to the flesh-eating bacteria, I really do love happy endings!
Back in October, I wrote about an injury to my reconstructed left leg that left a hole over my superior and inferior retinaculam (top of my foot, at the ankle), which revealed my tendon, sliding back and forth, as I moved my foot (shivers). As a necrotizing fasciitis survivor, one becomes something of a wound care specialist and, though I’ve gotten along treating myself for nearly 20 years, this one required more expertise than I have.
So, I visited my general practitioner to get a referral to a plastic surgeon, because I felt a graft may be required. But, the wound began coming together by that time and my GP was able to really help it out with some minor surgery in his office. After the removal of some hypertrophic tissue at the top of the wound, the skin was able to grow down to cover the ulcer.
Well, here we are a little more than four months after the initial injury and the wound has closed. Along the way, I learned a few important lessons from the fabulous staff at the Sierra Nevada Wound Care Center. This was the first time I’ve used silver gel extensively and another one of those amazing new medical marvels, the ionic silver gauze sponge. At the center, they treated me with a silver sponge, but those were a little pricey for me and I just used the sterile generic sponge dressing with silver gel at home.
Later, when the moisture was no longer degrading the ulcer, I switched back to my old friend, Xeroform. That petrolatum/bismuth impregnated gauze was so amazing on donor sites, when I was “essentially skinned alive from the tops of [my] toes to [my] chest” back in 1998 (the chilling post-op transcription by one of my surgeons, following my skin graft operations). On this wound, it provided a nice clean environment to grow skin. Back in the day, Xeroform cost about 10 times what it does now, so I’ve stocked up on my old friend and will use that, whenever my skin breaks down in the future.
Even though wound care gets tedious and is sometimes very depressing, I’m grateful to live in times when there are so many wonderful people to help and ingenious medical developments coming online.
A MAN contracted a deadly bug that ate his flesh while on holiday in China.
This fellow is so fortunate, because his girlfriend acted quickly and decisively, getting him to a competent trauma unit just in time. When traveling abroad, be sure to carry first-aid and keep any wounds, even the most simple, clean and disinfected.
This week I’ll be heading back to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center to consult with a plastic surgeon on the skin ulcer over the tendon on my foot. A couple weeks ago, I was leaning toward a full-thickness skin graft to cover the area and get some more tissue over the tendon. Now, the wound is healing well and I’ll be surprised if the plastics man will suggest a graft. It’s looking good.
For those of us with extensive injuries from necrotizing fasciitis, this is part of a life-long process that can often be discouraging or downright depressing. It’s always good to look on the bright side and remember that we’ve not only survived, but traveled a long way in recovery. We may have a long way to go, but we’ve come too far to give up or turn back now.
“I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14 ESV)
Here’s another inspirational story about a young man, who just wouldn’t quit.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a wound I have on my tendon. I visited my GP and he did a bit of minor surgery and wound care on the hole over my tendon. It’s looking really good. But, he’s consulting with a plastic surgeon to see if I may need a full-thickness graft over the area. If I do have surgery, it would be the first since I left the hospital back in 1998. I had amazing results in the reconstruction of my leg and didn’t have to return to cover problem areas or releases on the keloid scarring around my joints. I suppose the tearing of the scar, while swimming with fins, was a sort of “non-surgical release.” I don’t want any more of those!
Prayers would be appreciated. Thank you.
Surviving the flesh-eating bacteria is an ongoing process. Once you make it past the initial 72 hours and find yourself still in the land of the living, dealing with the sometimes devastating effects can be challenging, whether the wounds are great or small. Often, I’ll post stories about those who have overcome incredible loss from this disease and, in light of their challenges, I see my wounds as being on the small end of the spectrum.
Denise has always wanted to visit the garden island of Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands. So, we flew over there earlier this month. I thought I would try paddle-board surfing while we were there and Hanalei Bay is ideally suited for a first timer. However, a day or so before we went north I put on my fins to swim around Salt Pond Beach Park near Port Allen. When I left the water and pulled off my bootie, I found that the scarring over the tendon at my ankle had torn and I was trailing a lot of blood.
I carry some first aid in my backpack at all times, including a wrap and gauze pads, but the amount of blood was unexpected and the wound was on a spot that’s hard to treat, apart from some kind of pressure sock. I visited the lifeguards, who handed me a couple of antiseptic towelettes and advised me to use the aloe plant they had growing next to their station as an astringent wound dressing. I followed their advice and applied gel from the “leaf” all day. It was pretty effective.
I thought I was good to go for the paddle board session, since I didn’t anticipating flexing my foot much and the wound seemed to stabilize quickly. What I didn’t know was that you really begin to learn paddle-boarding on your knees and I ended up tearing the wound another half inch or so. Soon, I was bleeding out into the beautiful clear water, right around the point from where Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark attack. I’m not that concerned about sharks (maybe I should be), but there’s just something about having a gaping wound that brings me down a bit and I really couldn’t enjoy myself out on the water.
This is one side of being a necrotizing fasciitis (NF) survivor I’ve never really overcome completely. When I have open wounds or other lingering issues from NF that rise to a certain level of discomfort or concern, I’ve noticed some subtle negative effects in the following areas:
- My sleep is sometimes affected and I will wake up for no apparent reason. Then, I’ll lie awake for an hour or so, thinking about the condition or wound and how I will treat the problem. I go through the catalogue of techniques I’ve learned about wound care in my mind. I’ll wonder, “why is it taking so long to heal or leave? ” In the morning, I’ll wake up with the sun shining and the problem doesn’t seem that big. After a while, I’ll fall into the routine of treatment and my sleep is no longer a problem.
- It’s become routine now, to take all the precautions I know I should. Yet, I’ll still be a bit too concerned about getting a serious infection. Then, I’ll see reminders that my danger of infection is not as great as what other people face and I’ve always seen good results in my wound care.
- I think about the future and that one day, when I’m older and weaker, I may not be able to heal. That’s a needless worry and I can leave it in the Lord’s hands. He knows the day, the hour, and the cause of my death. My job is to take care of what’s been set before me and remember that there’s never been a better time for people with the kinds of problems I face. I have everything I need to take care of my body, as messed up as it is.
- Depression. Since I have some form of low-level, chronic depression, I begin wondering if I’m more depressed because of the wound I’m dealing with now or if the wound triggered this round of depression? No matter, I need to approach any form of melancholy in the same way:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)
This is a very informative resource for those concerned about the Flesh-eating bacteria.
Necrotizing fasciitis: A severe, progressive skin infection which causes progressive destruction of skin and underlying tissue. It is caused by certain bacteria and has a high mortality rate… Necrotizing fasciitis (occasionally described by the media as “the flesh-eating bacteria”) destroys muscles, fat…
More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Necrotizing fasciitis is available at Necrotizing fasciitis Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Causes – RightDiagnosis.com.
When I saw this woman in her Jobst garments and mask, it brought back a flood of memories. Many victims of necrotizing fasciitis are treated in burn units or go through some kind of plastic surgery and reconstruction. For skin grafts, Jobst pressure garments act as a second skin, flattening the scars, aiding the vascular system, and helping the sub derma to recover.
I wore them from the tips of the toes on my left leg, like a bicycle short on my right leg and all the way up to my chest in a “tank top” style suit. I had some serious keloid scarring at the donor sites on my rib cage. The pressure garments were incredibly uncomfortable and ITCHY! When I returned to work after eight months, I decided to abandon the garments on the trunk of my body, but wore the leg pressure suit for a full year. They were restrictive, hot, and uncomfortable — I was already struggling to regain strength and health, while working again. Even though I quit wearing my body suit early, I had good results and never had to return for releases or other reconstructive surgery. Every night at bedtime, Denise massaged the scarring on my chest and that seemed to help a lot.
I saw burn patients with the masks and felt incredible sympathy for them. We met one woman, whose husband was blown up in a gas explosion — he’d had 89 surgeries and wore a suit from head to toe. There was one small patch of unburned skin on his head and they kept going back to it over and over, in order to harvest skin for his entire body! The woman featured in this article, Dana Vulin, is a true survivor and when the mask came off, she said: “I hope they see the scars. This is part of me now.” Amen! This is our theme song: Beautiful Pain by Propaganda
Read her incredible story here: A Maniac Set Her On Fire. 2 Years Later, She Removes Her Mask And Shows Her New Face – LittleThings.com.