Less than 48 hours after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial infection during a Florida beach trip, a man died, and his family is trying to get the word out via social media that the danger is real and it is serious.
“Flesh Eating Bacteria sounds like an urban legend. Let me assure you that it is not,” Cheryl Bennett Wiygul posted to Facebook on Wednesday. “It took my Dad’s life.”
“This is so raw and personal to me that I did not want to post about it,” she wrote, “but if I can help one person, then it is worth it. There is not enough education out there about the bacteria in the water. There needs to be signs posted at every beach, every city and state park, and every bayou stating that ‘due to naturally occurring bacteria in the water people with open wounds or compromised immune systems should not enter.'”
Wiygul deserves a lot of credit for battling through her grief and the shocking, brutal nature in which her dad was taken from her and the rest of her family, to try to prevent someone else’s suffering.
Her Facebook post has already been shared more than 30,000 times and those numbers will sharply escalate as the news spreads.
Only a week before Wiygul’s parents visited her in Okaloosa County, Florida, a 12-year-old girl from Indiana named Kylei Brown had similarly been infected with necrotizing fasciitis at a county beach, but her prognosis is now hopeful, albeit with more surgeries and treatment in front of her.
Following that incident, Okaloosa County aimed to defuse concerns about the risks via a published article titled “Rumor Control,” saying the girl had a cut on her leg. Wiygul took that to mean that as long as no one went into the water with open wounds, they’d be OK.
“When my parents got in town I was fanatical about Neosporin and liquid bandaid,” Wiygul wrote. “My Dad didn’t have any open wounds. He had a couple places that were practicality healed small scratches on his arms and legs that I made sure were super sealed up.”
She indicated that, as her dad was battling cancer, his immune system was compromised.
“My mom religiously sun-blocked him,” said Wiygul. “We were taking precautions and we were good, so I thought. We had a blast. We were out in the bay on the boat near Crab Island, went to the beach in Destin twice, splashed around Turkey Creek, swam in Boggy Bayou, in our pool and then on Friday we spent the day at Rocky Bayou riding jet skis and throwing the ball around in the water. We left around 4:00 p.m. Daddy stayed up late Friday night and watched a movie. He was happy and talkative, seemed to feel fine as he did all week. About 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, 12 hours after we were in the water, he woke up with a fever, chills and some cramping.”
Her mother and father went home to Tennessee later that morning, as planned, but on the way, his condition deteriorated.
“His legs started to hurt severely,” Wiygul wrote. “He was becoming extremely uncomfortable. My Dad has been through a lot and he is not a complainer so he had to have been in a lot of pain to vocalize it.
“They got to the hospital in Memphis around 8 p.m. They took him back immediately,” she continued. “As they were helping him get changed into his hospital gown they saw this terribly swollen black spot on his back that was not there before. My mom sent me a picture of it and it felt like someone sucker punched me.
“I called and asked if it was actually black (because sometimes color is off in a photo) and she said it was black. I never saw a cut on his back and neither did she. We certainly hadn’t seen this spot. I told her to tell them he was in the water in Florida and it was necrotizing fasciitis. She told everyone that came in the room. One person told her the media had blown that out of proportion. Others said it was staph. They would not biopsy it. They did start him on IV antibiotics.
“The black spot had doubled in size,” the Facebook post continued. “A new one was starting to pop up. His arms were becoming more blotchy by the minute and he was in a great deal of pain. Some of the nurses said they’d never seen anything like it. At 1 a.m. he became septic and they moved him into ICU. He coded shortly after and they had to bring him back.
“My dad had a lot of medical issues but heart was not one of them. They had to intubate him. He coded again. They said his organs were too damaged and his blood was too acidic to sustain life. He was gone by Sunday afternoon. Less than 48 hours after getting out of the water feeling great, the bacteria had destroyed him.”
Too little, too late … “We got lab results today: Vibrio vulnificus which manifests into necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) ultimately leading to sepsis. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that is transmitted by eating undercooked shellfish or through an open wound.”
Wiygul went on to say that she will forever feel guilty because she did not know the full risk to him, given his weakened immune system and that she should have done her own research into the matter. She regrets the fact that there were not warning signs posted or published so that she and her family could have been more cautious.
“There is information out there but I didn’t find it all until it was too late,” Wiygul advised. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t need anyone to tell me what we should or should not have done. We already know. It was too late for us. Please just pass this on so it can help someone else.”
Read Wiygul’s entire Facebook post here …
The mother of Kylei Brown also posted to Facebook about her daughter’s ordeal, warning about the need to know the dangers of infection potential in the water …
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