As his hand and arm continued to swell, Mike was rushed to Tampa Bay General hospital where he was put in the burn unit and treated.
A tiny prick in his hand from a fish hook soon turned into a black, blistered mass.
As his hand and arm continued to swell and Mike was rushed to Tampa Bay General hospital where he was put in the burn unit and treated.
Although doctors considered amputating Mike’s arm, they managed to get the infection under control. They told Mike he’s lucky to keep the arm, and to be alive at all.
A simple prick from a fish hook gave Mike Walton a flesh-eating bacteria infection that gave him black blisters on his hand and almost cost the Florida man his arm
A fish hook like this one was the likely source of Mike’s flesh-eating bacterial infection
An avid fisherman, Mike has stuck himself with countless fish hooks.
But this time was different, as quickly became apparent.
‘I had like little blisters starting to form on my hand and you could watch like sweat beads coming up on side of the hand, and then they just turned black,’ Mike told ABC Action News.
His hook had been contaminated with necrotizing fasciitis bacteria.
These dangerous infections can be caused by may strains of bacteria, most commonly Group A Step, Staph and Vibrio.
Most of these are harmless as long as they stay where they belong.
Staph, for example, lives peacefully on the surface of our skin.
Doctors thought that they might have to amputate Mike’s arm to save his life, but they managed to remove all the bacteria while keeping the arm intact
But if an open wound lets it into the moist deeper layers, it can multiply rapidly and start devouring flesh.
And Vibrio, one of the more aggressive strains that can become a flesh-eating monster, doesn’t cause humans any issues in its normal home, salt water, but can become lethal if it gets into the fascia.
Infections can happen in outdoor settings, at hospitals, or even around the house.
About 1,000 people contract necrotizing fasciitis every year in the US, and one in four die.
The key to treating flesh-eating infections is to do it fast.
Infections can kill within the first 21 to 24 house of exposure.
Mike was lucky. He got to the hospital quickly, and doctors started him on a course of antibiotics.
Bacteria ate away flesh from the back of Mike’s hand and part of his left arm, so he had to get skin grafts and will be swollen, bandaged and on antibiotics for some time
But then blisters turned to black bubbles on his hand, and his arm continued to balloon. It was a sign that the infection wasn’t yet under control.
So Mike’s arm had to be slit open so the swelling didn’t get any more dangerous and the bacteria could be removed.
‘When you look down and you can see your own tendons, back of your hand and your bone going up your arm, that makes it real,’ Mike told ABC.
In the end, they managed to remove all of the bacteria, stop the infection’s spread, and save Mike’s arm.
He had to have a skin graft to replace the tissue bacteria had eaten on the back of his hand and arm and will remain on a course of antibiotics, but Mike will live to fish another day.