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How Flesh-eating Bacteria Works

Survival Stories
Claudia Mejia contracted flesh-eating bacteria before giving birth to her son. Mejia underwent amputation surgeries to save her life.
Claudia Mejia contracted flesh-eating bacteria before giving birth to her son. Mejia underwent amputation surgeries to save her life.
John Raoux/Associated Press

As you learned earlier, the key to surviving flesh-eating bacteria is early treatment through high-dose antibiotics and surgery to remove infected flesh. But what you may not know is, once you survive this illness, you don't have to worry about that same strain redeveloping in your system. It's not reoccurring, meaning, once it's gone, it's gone for good. What does remain, though, are vivid memories of the frightening battle.

Jackie Roemmele and Donna Batdorff, founders of the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, both share their stories on the foundation's Web site. Following is a little about what they survived.

In 1993, Jackie had surgery to repair post-pregnancy hernias. It appears that her suture site was the ideal place for flesh-eating bacteria to enter. Sure enough, she went through a long battle with flesh-eating bacteria -- a case that wasn't accurately diagnosed until well into her fight. At times, she had a 104-degree fever, terrible pain and anemia. And although she survived flesh-eating bacteria, surgeries to remove the dying tissue left part of her body numb and disfigured. After this struggle, meeting Donna through the Internet and establishing the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation became a way to help others through her own experiences [source: Roemmele].

Donna's story is different, but equally inspiring. While on a skiing trip in 1996, Donna, who had always been healthy, started to feel like she had the flu. She had a small cut in her finger, which turned into soreness in her arm. Thanks to flesh-eating bacteria, that soreness just got worse. Even though she felt awful, somehow, she made it home from her trip. Ahead of her was a long fight -- one with dehydration, low blood pressure, several days of unconsciousness and even being put on life support. Donna had five surgeries to remove one of her fingers, scrape some of her fingers, remove infected tissue and graft skin from her thighs to her arm. A year later, though, Donna -- newly fitted with prosthetic fingers -- was back in action biking and taking aerobics [source: Batdorff].

Although Jackie, Donna and other survivors have made it through their cases of flesh-eating bacteria, it is clear that emotional and physical scars can and do remain. Drawing from their own experiences, Jackie and Donna created the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation to increase awareness, support people remembering loved ones lost to the illness and help those seeking to learn more about flesh-eating bacteria.

For more information on flesh-eating bacteria and related health topics, visit the links on the following page.