ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A man from Tampa Bay, Florida, has survived an infection of flesh-eating bacteria that began killing the tissue in his leg.
“What you see now, you see not just a scar, but the beauty of the aftermath,” said Donnie Adams, who attributed his survival to doctors and the power of meditation and prayer. “I would’ve never imagined that a human bite would turn into something so horrific as a flesh-eating bacteria.”
Adams was at a family event in February when things got sour between two family members. He tried to get between them but ended up getting bit. He went to the hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
“By the third day, my leg was very sore. I couldn’t walk, it was very warm and very painful,” said Adams.
His infection worsening, Adams was rushed to the ER at HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“I looked at him and I said to him that I need to take you to the operating room,” recalled Dr. Fritz Brink, an osteopathic physician at HCA Florida.
Brink said he found something worse than what he expected: necrotizing fasciitis. This bacterial condition, more commonly known as a flesh-eating bacteria, travels along the muscle sheath and destroys healthy tissue. It can be caused by a number of bacteria, but most commonly group A Streptococcus bacteria, usually after it enters through a break in the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Adams’ case, the bacteria entered his body via the bite of another person, Brink believes.
“There’s a lot of really bad bacteria that live between our teeth in our gums in our mouth,” said Brink.
Brink performed a second surgery to cut out the infected tissue from Adams’ thigh.
“If I would’ve waited … until the next day after that ER second visit, there was a good chance I would’ve lost my leg,” said Adams.
He also could have gone into septic shock, which can be fatal.
Brink noted that bacterial infections can evolve very quickly. He also urged those with wounds to watch for signs of worsening infection — e.g. redness, increased pain or warmth — and to seek medical attention immediately, like Adams did.
“They assessed my wound and it was very horrific,” Adams remembered. “It was unbelievable. But in my mind, I just had to get through whatever this was.”