Flesh-Eating Bacteria Is a "Beast"

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Jill Chadwick

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            One day she was fine, the next Heather Hubble became very sick, and barely made it home with her kids from a shopping trip. Her husband took her to a walk-in clinic, where they told her it was just a stomach bug, gave her some medicine and told her to go home and rest. But she got worse overnight, and the next day she went to the emergency department. That’s where doctors discovered she had  necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called "flesh-eating bacteria.”

            Hubble now represents one of the 700 to 1,200 cases reported on average in the US every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, necrotizing fasciitis continues to be very rare. However, it can lead to loss of limbs and even death.

While the exact cause of the disease still remains unknown, researchers say "flesh-eating bacteria" often enters through breaks in the skin (cuts, burns, insect bites, puncture or surgical wounds). People with cancer, kidney disease, and diabetes are also more likely than others to get the infection. Hubble is currently receiving treatment at The University of Kansas Health System, where doctors treat about 50 patients a year for the disease.

            In the video, Angie Edstrom, a nurse at The University of Kansas Health System, explains how devastating the disease can be. She developed necrotizing fasciitis herself and says, “It’s a beast! One in four patients don’t survive. But if you’re like me and get through it, you are a survivor and it will make you strong.” Edstrom explains how she’s helped Hubble cope with her disease.

            Heather Hubble is currently undergoing treatment at The University of Kansas Health System. She and her doctors are not sure how she got the disease. She explains what happened to her, how it’s made her feel, and what her future looks like.

            Heather Watterson is a former necrotizing fasciitis patient. In the video, she explains what happened to her, and the treatments she’s endured. She has spent time with Heather Hubble giving moral support. The video shows she and Angie helping wash Heather Hubble’s hair.

            The video also shows doctors preparing Hubble for a skin debridement procedure in the Burnett Burn Center at The University of Kansas Health System.