‘We didn’t know if he was go­ing to lose his leg or his life’

The Northern Star - - FRONT PAGE - Hamish Broome hamish.broome@north­ern­star.com.au

A LIS­MORE man has nar­rowly avoided hav­ing his foot am­pu­tated after be­ing in­fected with a fright­en­ing flesh-eat­ing dis­ease dur­ing a lo­cal camp­ing trip.

David Creighton, 63, has this week un­der­gone mul­ti­ple emer­gency surg­eries in Bris­bane’s Princess Alexan­dra Hos­pi­tal to re­move necrotic tis­sue eat­ing into his left foot and an­kle.

Daugh­ter Hay­ley Thomas said it was “touch and go” at one point whether doc­tors would be forced to am­pu­tate the limb.

“It was very scary ... he went to hos­pi­tal with a slight raise in temperature, think­ing he might be on in­tra­venous an­tibi­otics for 24 hours, and within that 24-hour pe­riod he was rushed into surgery and they were say­ing they might have to am­pu­tate his leg,” Mrs Thomas said.

“It was very, very sud­den.”

A week ago the fa­ther of four was camp­ing at Black Rock, in Bund­jalung National Park south of Wood­burn.

Doc­tors be­lieve a dip in nearby Jerusalem Creek exposed him to a bac­te­ria known as necro­tis­ing fasci­itis, a flesh-eat­ing dis­ease which typ­i­cally en­ters the body through a cut or burn.

Mr Creighton then went to Bris­bane last Satur­day for a planned week-long hol­i­day to watch the ten­nis and Big Bash League cricket.

“He went to the ten­nis on Satur­day and then he felt a bit strange on Satur­day night, and went to bed with some Panadol but his leg was hurt­ing,” Mrs Thomas said.

“When he woke up on Sun­day his temperature had risen.

“Be­cause he has had a kid­ney trans­plant he’s al­ways been told that if his temperature rises he is to go straight to the hos­pi­tal.

“It’s re­ally lucky he did, be­cause by Mon­day he was hav­ing surgery.”

There’s not much left of his foot other than bone. — Hay­ley Thomas

It wasn’t un­til Wed­nes­day that doc­tors for­mally iden­ti­fied the bac­te­ria as necro­tis­ing fasci­itis.

Since then, Mr Creighton has un­der­gone two more op­er­a­tions to re­move necrotic flesh on his foot, and is on heavy in­tra­venous an­tibi­otics to com­bat any fur­ther in­fec­tion.

“There’s not much left of his foot other than bone,” Mrs Thomas said.

“They’ve got to make sure they’ve got ev­ery tiny bit of tis­sue that’s dy­ing, or it will spread.”

Peo­ple with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems are more sus­cep­ti­ble to necro­tis­ing fasci­itis, mak­ing Mr Creighton a prime can­di­date.

He had a kid­ney trans­plant about 10 years ago as a re­sult of a ge­netic kid­ney dis­ease, and takes anti-re­jec­tion med­i­ca­tion.

One of the side ef­fects of the life­long med­i­ca­tion is thin skin, which tears eas­ily.

“It just so hap­pened he al­ready had a tiny cut on his leg from bump­ing it, and that’s where the bug got into his leg,” Mrs Thomas said.

She said the pres­sure on the close-knit Lis­more fam­ily had been im­mense.

“Mon­day and Tues­day were ex­tremely stress­ful, we didn’t know if he was go­ing to lose his leg or his life,” Mrs Thomas said.

Mr Creighton is also fac­ing a long road to re­cov­ery.

He will be in hos­pi­tal at least two more weeks un­der ob­ser­va­tion be­fore doc­tors con­sider pos­si­ble skin grafts to re­build the flesh on his foot, fol­lowed by ex­ten­sive phys­io­ther­apy so he can walk again.

“We’re all just try­ing to cheer him up as much as we can and spend time with him,” Mrs Thomas said.

One of the hard­est things was hav­ing to trade his long-planned hol­i­day in Bris­bane for a hos­pi­tal bed.

“He missed the cricket on Wed­nes­day night,” Mrs Thomas said. “He was dev­as­tated about that.”

CLOSE CALL: David Creighton, 63, was in­fected by a flesh-eat­ing dis­ease after swim­ming in Jerusalem Creek at Black Rock camp­ing ground.

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