Thursday, March 13, 2008

How life can change in a blink of an eye

A former co-worker & friend of mine just had her life change forever due to Necrotizing Fasciitis (NF). Her husband died from it last week. He presented with flu-like symptoms & then woke up with one of his legs swollen & sore. They took him to the doctor & they thought it might be a blood clot since he travels a lot. They decided to do a MRI. Once they got the MRI results back, they diagnosed him with NF & went to do emergency surgery to clean out his leg. While being operated on, he died.This all happened in a 2 day period. He had no other symptoms other than flu-like symptoms & then a swollen leg. He had no open wounds or sores or weird skin patches. He was a young, healthy man. They have 3 young kids.

Of interest: The eldest son had an infection in his nose about 1 month ago. One side of his face became swollen. His sinuses were infected & they had to do surgery to clear the infection out. At that point, the doctors said that he was not contagious.

Here is some information that I got from the National Necrotizing Facsciitis Foundation ( Please read over it to keep your family members safe. If a family member shows symptoms similar to these, please advocate to have them tested & treated asap!

Please go hug your loved ones & treasure what you have. All my best---Carol

Commonly Known as The "Flesh Eating" Bacteria
Common Questions Answered as Simply as Possible
Published by the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation

How do you say It?
The pronunciation is neck-row-tize-ing fash-e-i-tis, it means decaying infection of the fascia.

What Is It?
It is a bacterial infection caused commonly by group A Strep bacteria, which is the same bacteria that causes common Strep throat. Usually easily killed by antibiotics, sometimes a very strong variety of Strep occurs. This is the one that causes the life-threatening cases and is known as the "flesh-eating" bacteria. NF can also be caused by other bacteria, or a mixture of bacteria. The bacteria destroys soft tissue at the subcutaneous level, and often is coupled with toxic shock syndrome, both are deadly alone, together they are even more so. If muscle is destroyed, it is necrotizing myositis.

How do you get it?
Most often the bacteria enter the body through an opening in the skin, quite often a very minor opening, even as small as a paper cut, a staple puncture, or a pin prick. It can also enter through weakened skin, like a bruise, blister, or abrasion. It can also happen following a major trauma or surgery, and in some cases there appears to be no identifiable point of entry.

Where does the bacteria come from?
It is most commonly transferred by respiratory droplets or direct contact with secretions of someone carrying Strep A. For instance, a person carrying a Strep A bacteria might not even show symptoms or become ill at all. They cough or sneeze, another person picks up the bacteria on their hands or directly at the point of a wound and the infection occurs. The NF patient is not likely to be contagious, and inanimate objects are unlikely to be points of transmission.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Unfortunately necrotizing fasciitis often has flu-like symptoms, so initially, the natural assumption is for the individual to believe they have the flu. Often, NF occurs in otherwise healthy, active individuals. No major trauma is necessary. In fact, the condition often occurs following minor trauma, or even a bruise or abrasion. As mentioned above, it can occur after surgery. Perhaps the most troubling and frightening aspect of NF is its remarkable ability mimic minor afflictions -- which fools both the patient and the doctor. Misdiagnosis is very common, which, in light of the speed and deadliness of the infection, often has severe consequences, such as multiple limb amputation and too often, death. In post-surgical patients, NF often mimics common post-operative symptoms such as severe pain, inflammation, fever and nausea, which also thwarts a timely diagnosis. Education and awareness by the general public as well as the medical community in recognizing symptoms is critical to saving lives.

The following depicts general symptoms of NF as the disease advances:
Trauma of some type (however slight) will probably have occurred (cut, bruise, scratch, surgery).

Victim begins to feel an annoying discomfort in the general region of the trauma (in the case of NNFF co-founder Donna, she felt the type of pain one feels after working out a little too hard in her upper arm, the day after getting a small cut on her finger).

The pain described gets worse, the area more tender. This is one of the major things to keep in mind. The pain one feels is out of proportion to the injury.

Flu-like symptoms occur, such as vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, general malaise, weakness, muscle pain, and fever.

Tissue is swollen and there may or may not be redness noted. The area will feel hot to the touch, and very painful.

Conditions continue to worsen.

Urination becomes less frequent (as the system dehydrates)

Blood pressure drops severely, and heartbeat is rapid.

A sunburn type rash may appear over the entire body, due to toxins released from the bacteria. This may or may not be present.

Large, dark boil-like blister(s) may or may not form in the affected area

Toxic shock can ensue as the body's organs shut down.

It is important that the patient report all symptoms to his or her physician to ensure a swift and accurate diagnosis!

Preventive Measures

First, let it be said that there is no sure prevention. Necrotizing fasciitis has been known to be spontaneous. A bruise or abrasion are all the "opening" in the skin necessary for bacteria to enter. However, there are some things you can do decrease risk.

The single biggest preventative measure is keeping the skin intact!

Next is cleanliness. Always wash even the smallest opening in the skin and apply an antibiotic ointment. Buy tubes of antibiotic ointment and keep one in your car, your desk, your exercise bag, and at home.

Take care with your children, impressing upon them the importance of cleanliness.

Be respectful to protect others from infection if you suspect that you may have a Strep infection, such as Strep throat, or have been exposed to someone with a known Strep infection. Symptoms do not have to be present for a person to be carrying the bacteria and infect others. One case of infection that comes to mind is a health care worker with two children at home with Strep throat. She had no symptoms, but innocently infected three people, one of whom died.

These simple measures are the most protection one can give oneself against any infection.
It just can't be stressed enough, however, that a pin prick (one woman became infected at the point of entry from a blood draw) can be the opening it takes.

About the NNFF The NNFF is a non-profit organization run entirely with donations and volunteer efforts. All donations are used to further our mission. If you wish to help, please send donations to NNFF, c/o Donna Batdorff, 2731 Porter SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49509. The NNFF can be reached at 616-261-2538. Our website is

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