A 50-year-old man from Indiana spent three weeks on life support and almost a month in the hospital after catching flesh-eating bacteria from eating oysters.
Patrick Baker remains in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery after undergoing emergency surgery on his legs, his family told The Herald Bulletin.
"If the infection had spread up to his abdomen, he would have died," Debbie Huffman, Baker's mother-in-law, told the outlet. "He'll go back into surgery as time goes on, and they'll debris his dead skin."
Baker fell ill three days after eating store-bought oysters. He started to experience flu-like symptoms and as his condition worsened, he developed purple blisters on his legs. His temperature soared to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and his body ached. Baker's wife, Mikka, encouraged him to go to an emergency room where he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis caused by a bacteria known as Vibrio vulnificus, or "flesh-eating bacteria."
"Patrick’s doctors told Mikka that all of them that have come in have never seen it, and that this is something that they’ve only read about in their medical books," Huffman said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes necrotizing fasciitis as "a severe infection in which the flesh around an open wound dies." It is estimated that about one in five people with Vibrio vulnificus die. In Baker's case, his infection comes from being exposed to saltwater.
"People just wouldn’t think in Indiana that this could happen to them, and there you go, it can happen," said Baker's friend, Shawn Watson. "The big thing is, a lot of people don’t know about crawfish and oysters that you eat."
Baker was transferred to an ICU unit in Indianapolis. He was finally taken off life support after three weeks, on Aug. 2, before undergoing surgery on his legs. He is recovering in the ICU and will have to undergo several more procedures including skin grafts.
"Not only is it a long road for him, it’s a long road for us, too," Huffman said. "From where we first started to where we didn’t think he was going to pull through, we’re thrilled now."
Watson added, "I think he’s heading in the right direction now. We’re taking baby steps."
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