Lower Salford man loses part of finger to ‘flesh-eating bacteria’
John Flenders, 27, of LRZHU 6DOIRUG, iV D VuUvivor of the nasty-sounding necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as “flHVh-HDWiQJ EDFWHUiD.”
“I feel lucky that all I ORVW iV D EiW RI D piQNy,” hH said, comparing his recent partial digital amputation to that of University RI GHRUJiD VWuGHQW $iPHH Copeland, whose battle with necrotizing fasciitis resulted in amputation of both feet, her entire right leg and most of both hands after being injured in a zip line accident last year.
LiNH CRpHODQG, DOO iW took was an opening of some kind in the skin for the bacteria to enter the body. Describing his experience as an unforeseen, freak occurrence, Flenders believes he came in contact with the bacteria in 6HpWHPEHU ZhiOH WZiFH UHtrieving an errant football that had landed in a pond.
“There were plenty of times the ball was overthrown into the bushes. I’m pretty certain that I cut myself one of those times retrieving the football IURP WhH EuVhHV,” hH VDiG.
The cut on his right little fiQJHU ZDV VR PiQRU WhDW hH did not know it was there until the pain started at 1 D.P. WhDW QiJhW. $OWhRuJh he said he put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on the cut, it was too late.
“Once it gets in your ERGy, iW’V UHOHQWOHVV,” VDiG Flenders of a potent strain of streptococcus pyogenes JURup $ hiV GRFWRUV VDiG led to rapid tissue destruction.
Two area infectious disease physicians interviewed for this story did so on the condition that their names not be used. Both said that as the name streptococcus indicates, it’s the same common organism that causes strep throat, which is why doctors tell you to stay home from work or school if you are ever diagnosed with strep throat. It’s also why they also tell you to wash your hands and disinfect cuts right away.
While streptococcus is usually killed off by antibiotics, instances do occur when it’s severe enough to cause deterioration of tissue and necrotizing fasciitis, they said.
“GURup $ VWUHpWRFRFFuV iV OiJhWQiQJ IDVW,” VDiG -DFqueline Roemmele, executive director of the North 3ODiQfiHOG, 1.-.-EDVHG 1Dtional Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation. Those most at risk, she said, are children, especially children with open chicken pox sores, people who have just had surgery and those with immune system issues.
$IWHU EDQGDJiQJ hiV FuW, Flenders felt ill for most of the next day and called in sick to work. The pain got worse and the right side of his hand reddened, with WhH fiQJHU VZHOOiQJ DURuQG the bandage.
“Just an hour later, I could feel the pain progressing from my hand up Py UiJhW DUP,” hH UHPHPbered.
$ZRNHQ Ey “H[FUuFiDWing, perpetuating, merciOHVV WhUREEiQJ pDiQ” iQ the middle of the night, he soaked and iced his hand and took Tylenol until he could make it to the docWRU’V RIfiFH iQ WhH PRUQiQJ.
“There were red lines up my arm from the infection traveling up my veins, a sight I described as an aeriDO viHZ RI D UHG $PD]RQ 5ivHU,” FOHQGHUV VDiG.
The doctor sent him to the emergency room at Grand View Hospital, which led to IV antibiotics and surgery, according to Flenders.
When the upsetting topic of amputation arose, “my mom had made some calls and got me transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in PhiladelphiD,” hH VDiG.
Despite additional antibiotic treatment, on Oct. 2, “the surgeon removed a little bit more than half RI Py UiJhW piQNy,” VDiG Flenders, describing the pre-amputation condition RI hiV fiQJHU DV D JUuHVRPH sight.
Due to the timing of election of medical benHfiWV, hHDOWh FDUH H[pHQVHV from the ordeal are all going to be out-of-pock- et. Flenders’ family has launched an online fundraiser at www.indiegogo. FRP/MRhQERy9129. $OVR, D EHHI-DQG-EHHU EHQHfiW iV iQ the works.
Flenders has since returned to work as an IT FRQWUDFWRU IRU $GHFFR EQgineering and last week his stitches were removed.
“Practice good hygiene. COHDQ yRuU FuWV,” VDiG Flenders. “People should know that this bacteria is RuW WhHUH.”
“I get [reports of necrotizing fasciitisz cases every single day from every part of the world. John is this young, vibrant, healthy person. He’s very lucky he OivHG,” 5RHPPHOH VDiG.
John Flenders, 27, of Lower Salford, contacted necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as “flesh eating bacteria.”