A Texas man fights for his life after losing his right leg to flesh-eating bacteria. He unsuspectingly contracted the rare and potentially fatal illness while at the beach in Galveston with his grandchildren.
Brian Parrott, 50, remains closely monitored in intensive care at LBJ Hospital in Houston. Doctors performed emergency surgery earlier this week to amputate his right leg from below the knee i order to save his life. Doctors told the Jacinto City resident he likely contracted a flesh-eating bacteria through a foot sore. His family still cannot believe what happened and how quickly it all took place.
Donna Dailey, Parrott’s mother, told Houston’s Fox 26: “You go swimming with your family on Sunday you go to work on Monday, you have a red leg on Tuesday, Wednesday you have boils on your leg, Thursday you lose the leg.”
KHOU 11 reported that a week ago Sunday, Parrott took his son and grandchildren to a Galveston beach to spend the day on the sand and in the water. Days later, Parrott became ill, vomiting. Sores erupted on his right leg. Harris County Health officials did not confirm if it was vibriosis, the type of flesh-eating infection caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a rare and potentially fatal bacteria.
A Galveston Health Department spokesman said flesh-eating bacteria lives in coastal waters and can infect a person when an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water. This illness is most commonly spread by eating under-cooked shellfish, however. Health officials said Galveston reported two-flesh eating bacterial infections so far this year. One victim contracted the illness from food. The other got it through a wound. Last year, Galveston reported eight infections, down from a confirmed nine cases in both 2014 and 2013.
Doctors told Parrott’s mother that he likely got the flesh eating bacteria through a scratch on his foot. “And because he’s diabetic, he may have had a scratch on his foot everything was right for it,” Dailey said. “I’m wanting to know if he’s going to live.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), symptoms can manifest between 16 hours to seven days after consumption of affected food sources or exposure of a wound to contaminated water. Symptoms include blistering and ulceration, swelling and reddening, fluid build-up, fever, sepsis and shock. Individuals with open sores or cuts and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to becoming infected.
Nearby in Port O’Connor, a Waller, Texas, man took his two sons fishing only to wind up at Memorial Medical Center in Port Lavaca. Reese Hart, 50, was hospitalized because he showed signs of vibriosis.
The DSHS defines Vibrio vulcanis as a naturally occurring bacterium that lives in warm coastal salt water and some inland brackish lakes. People become infected by handling and consuming raw or under-cooked seafood or exposing a wound to saline sea water.
About 80 percent of infections occur between May and October when water temperatures are warmer, and 20 percent occur between November and April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In extreme cases, the bacteria can lead to blood infection, half of which are fatal. It can also result in amputation and blistering skin lesions. It is considered rare and those most likely to contract vibriosis are the immune-compromised.
The Victoria Advocate reported Hart felt pain in his right leg and experienced irritation and redness around a burn scar on his ankle following the fishing trip on Sunday, June 12. By 6:30 a.m., Monday, Hart had a high fever, chills and shook uncontrollably. It never dawned on him that it could be a flesh-eating bacteria. Instead, he assumed the irritation was attributed to his wade boots rubbing against his ankle. In actuality, the bacteria entered Hart’s body through the burn scar, which Hart thought had healed. He responded well to an estimated regimen of three antibiotics to fight the infection. Hart did not lose any limbs. He was released from the hospital on Wednesday, June 15.
Another type of flesh-eating bacteria, Necrotizing fasciitis, almost killed Katy woman Karen Ehman last January KHOU 11 reported. A small bump on her left index finger opened and morphed into an infection that started to shut down her vital organs, lowered her blood pressure, and caused septic shock. Doctors almost amputated her arm. After a week in ICU and months of intense rehab that included 52 hyperbaric chamber treatments to better stimulate healing, Ehman is almost back to her old self. She may have contracted the flesh-eating bacteria in her own backyard.
The CDC states Necrotizing fasciitis, can spread through water in swimming pools, hot tubs, whirlpools into any open wound. It can also spread through any cut, burn or bite. “(The infection) moves very, very rapidly,” said Dr. Linda Yancey, who treated Ehman. “This is a condition where people can go from just fine to dead within about a day.”
It, too, is a rare but serious infection that spreads quickly and kills the body’s soft tissue. People with strong immune systems, practice good hygiene and proper wound care are less likely to get Necrotizing fasciitis.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.