Flesh-eating bacteria grips a local teen, almost loses leg

News 12 at 11 / Thursday, April 11, 2013

EVANS, Ga. (WRDW) -- Bumps, cuts and bruises are a fact of life, but for a local teen, a slip on a rock at the Savannah Rapids takes a turn for the worst when he contracts flesh-eating bacteria.

Eighteen-year-old Stephen Holt is lucky to be alive.

"Still upsets me thinking about it. He almost lost his leg or his life," mother Maryann Elam said through tears.

It's a terrifying thought after a normal trip to the Savannah Rapids turned into a nightmare for the Lakeside High senior.

"I fell down into the river and hit a rock underwater and it cut down to the bone," Holt remembered.

What was thought to be fixed with eight simple stiches, turned out to be something much more dangerous.

"As soon as they looked at his leg, they knew immediately. Within an hour they had him in surgery," Elam said.

A second trip to the hospital told Holt he had contracted Necrotizing Faciitis, the same flesh-eating bacteria that caused Aimee Copeland to lose both feet, a leg, and her hands.

"This disease, Necrotizing Fasciitis is extremely rare. We have around 500 to 1500 cases every year. It's pretty much the fight against time to save a person's life," explained infectious diseases physician Dr. Tarak Patel.

For Holt, the clock was ticking.

"It took four surgeries, one every day, before they were able to stop it," Elam said.

"They said if I would have come to the hospital two days later, I would have lost it," Holt said.

"He was in the ICU Burn Unit for ten days, and then they put the wound vac on his leg and sent him home," Elam said.

Now Holt's recovering at home, thankful he can still count all ten toes.

"This is going to take a while to heal up, but that's nothing compared to what I could be going through right now," he said.

"Hopefully ten years down the road he's going to be joking about this nasty battle wound scar he's going to have," his mother said.

Holt is in for months of recovery, but he is planning on going back to school in his wheelchair next week.

Infectious disease experts say the bacteria that causes this infection is common in the environment, but cases like this are extremely rare.

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