A 13-year-old boy in Seattle has just been released from a hospital after surviving the ravages of a flesh-eating bacteria. CBS affiliate KIRO-TV reports Trey Lauren spent three weeks at Seattle Children's Hospital while an aggressive bacteria ate at his leg from the inside.
The infection started shortly after Lauren cut his leg with a nail and received six stitches. Five hours later his leg was so swollen it looked like a balloon. An MRI at the hospital determined the infection was eating him alive. The doctors said he was 12 hours away from losing his leg and two days from losing his life.
"I was awake during that and that just freaked me out," he told CBS News.
In the following 23 days at the hospital, Lauren underwent 13 surgeries. His parents thought they'd lose their son. "I had to tell my mom and dad, 'I got this,'" he recalled. "It was like someone shot me with adrenaline, y'know? It was like, 'all right, let's do this.'"
Flesh-eating bacteria -- also known as necrotizing fasciitis -- occurs when bacteria enters the body through a skin wound, such as a cut, scrape, burn or bite. When the toxins from the bacterias find their way to the bloodstream they spread rapidly and kill connective tissue around muscles, nerves, fat and blood vessels. Often the initial symptoms, such as redness, pain, swelling, blisters, fever, nausea and vomiting may be mistaken for other conditions, leading doctors to initially misdiagnose a patient.
A number of bacteria types can cause the infection, including E.coli and Staphylococcus, but A Streptococcus, or group A strep bacteria, is the most common. Necrotizing fasciitis most typically impacts individuals who have weakened immune systems from medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer, though otherwise healthy individuals do develop infections.
Unfortunately, intravenous antibiotics don't always clear the infection, which means doctors often must operate to remove decaying tissue. In many cases this results in a loss of limbs.
Flesh-eating bacteria is relatively rare in the U.S. It affects 650 to 800 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is why incidences of such infections frequently are in the news.
Aimee Copeland, a graduate student at the University of West Georgia, made headlines for months in 2012, as she fought the flesh-eating bacteria that resulted in the amputation of her leg, foot and both hands. Last year, health officials in Central Florida released a warning that seawater in lagoons along the coast tested positive for a bacteria that caused one man to die. In March, flesh-eating bacteria killed a California man shortly after he survived a home invasion and near-fatal shooting.
But Trey Lauren is one of the luckier cases. He is now home and in recovery. Though he has many months of physical therapy ahead of him, the teenager is optimistic he'll soon return to enjoying life as it was before he developed the infection. "My goal is to be playing baseball by the end of the year," he told reporters.