Spring is in the air and
pretty soon thousands of people will be hitting the lakes of East Texas. But
before you do, a warning of caution about flesh-eating bacteria, or Necrotizing fasciltis.
Last February, we told you
about East Texan Travis Moore, 74, who died a week after a fishing trip on Lake
Conroe. But he isn't the only one who has dealt with the quickly spreading
infection. In 2007, Nacogdoches man, Steve Gilpatrick, got Vibrio Vulnificus, a
curved bacterium that usually occurs after eating seafood, especially raw
However, for Gilpatrick, who
had been down at Crystal Beach in Galveston with his family, he had only been
in the ocean for 15 minutes. His wife, Linda, says he had a Diabetic ulcer on
his right calf, and doctors confirmed the ulcer was the entryway for the
"He was sick immediately.
Feverish; didn't feel good. [He was] burning up. I noticed his leg was inflamed
so that's when we decided to go to an emergency room and get him some help,"
Linda Gilpatrick said.
The couple went to an Urgent
Care facility on Galveston Island, when they were directed across the street to
the University of Texas Medical Branch after several doctors recognized it as a flesh-eating bacteria
After two days in the ER,
doctors confirmed he did have flesh-eating bacteria.
"I heard about it. A lot of
people had never heard about it; surprisingly. But a lot of people had never
heard about it. I had, but I didn't know what the effects would be," Linda
The effects were 20 blood
transfusions and 9 surgeries, including several skin grafts. Linda said she
didn't realize doctors would actually have to cut her husband's skin off to
curb the spreading infection. Within days, his right calf was nothing more than
tendons and bones.
"They will let you watch
while they re-bandage. He was in the intensive care unit—the burn unit—and that's
because they end up doing skin grafts on everything. Once they determine you're
going to survive they start grafting," Linda Gilpatrick said.
Survival for the Gilpatrick's
was the ultimate dream, and unlike Moore, who died after being sent via life
flight from Huntsville to a Houston area hospital, Steve Gilpatrick survived.
But he wasn't allowed to go home for three months.
"They were really good to
allow me to spend a lot of time with him and I think that's so key—is to be
able to try to help that person not be depressed once they let you be awake,"
Linda Gilpatrick said.
Linda says life at home was
different, and life-changing. They had to get their car specially made so that
Steve could drive it with his leg, and they had to redo a lot of things around
the house. But they got through it. Unfortunately, in December 2012, Steve was
diagnosed with lung cancer. Linda says he barely made it four months and then
he was gone.
"We had those good years between
2007 and 2012 and that created another challenge and [me] taking care of him,"
Linda Gilpatrick said.
However, Linda's mission is
still the same: to make sure people understand and educate themselves on flesh-eating bacteria.
"The more people know then
maybe they will make the right decisions about going into the water. You see
signs posted at the beach that the water has been tested for bacterium and
bacterium has been found. Well, let me tell you, they do not test for Vibrio
Vulnificus," Linda Gilpatrick said.
Linda says anyone who has a cut,
infection, and even a weak immune system should be careful. She says one thing
that did help her husband was Dakin's Solution, which is an antiseptic solution
containing sodium hypochlorite. It can be found at most drug stores.
"It's actually a very light
mixture of bleach and water and you know, if you feel like you got to get
around the beach, the water, fresh water even, mix up some Dakin's in a spray
bottle and spray yourself down. And it might keep you from getting it," Linda
She says if you do go to the
beach, or the lake, or even a river, to be extra careful. She urges anyone who
experiences an inflamed limb or any kind after a trip to a water source, should
seek medical help immediately.
Unfortunately for Moore,
whose brother said he complained he felt as if he was having a heart attack, the infection was found after it was too late.
Tuesday, September 16 2014 7:31 AM EDT2014-09-16 11:31:48 GMT
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