PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — There’s a flesh-eating bacteria that can travel through your body so quickly, almost half of the people who contract it end up dying. But one Portland father survived the infection thanks to the work of a local surgeon.
Anthony Werre is alive to tell his story, but only because his doctor was able to spot what was happening and act quickly.
“I had noticed that I had dry elbows and and one had cracked,” Werre told KOIN 6 News. “This one was having a hard time healing.”
Werre soon started to feel flu-like symptoms. When he was admitted to the ER at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, orthopedic surgeon Steven Madey said he knew his condition was serious.
“Within an hour it became something that was that size, and then by the time we got him down to the operating room it had spread,” Dr. Madey said.
Werre was diagnosed with a flesh-eating bacteria known as necrotizing fasciitis in the medical world.
Dr. Madey said he had to act fast by removing all of the infected skin on Werre’s left arm.
“He had to lose all of his skin here,” Dr. Madey explained. “The elbow was exposed at the bone.”
Several surgeries later, Werre’s arm is now covered in skin grafts.
“The first thing I remember when I woke up, I said, ‘do I have my arm?’ because I couldn’t feel anything,” Werre said. “I was bandaged up from my wrist all the way up here.”
Symptoms of the flesh-eating bacteria include redness, swelling and pain in the infected area accompanied by fever, nausea or other flu-like symptoms.
Fortunately for Werre, Legacy Emanuel is a level one trauma center, so Dr. Madey said he sees these cases somewhat regularly and knows exactly what to look for.
But if Werre had come into the hospital just one day later, Dr. Madey said he probably would have lost his life.
Months later, Werre is recovering well. He’s back to his normal routine, which now includes finding humorous ways to cover up his arm.
“When I feel self conscious I put these sleeves on and I go out in public,” Werre said. “I would rather have people go, ‘is that a real tattoo or a fake tattoo?'”
A majority of flesh-eating bacteria infections are caused by organisms that live in your skin. There are many different things that can trigger a reaction, including strep throat, which Werre had several times last year.