When booking a beach vacation, the last thing most people think about is something going wrong. Sure, the shark-attack scenes in Jaws will always be there in the back of your mind, but with your toes in the sand and an ocean breeze in your hair, how could you not relax? Still, if you’re just keen on avoiding deep waters, just wade up to your ankles — nothing can get you there… right?
This seemed like sound enough advice for one Indiana family. After a full shark-less day of play in the ocean, they continued on their happy vacation without a care in the world. However, something in the water wasn’t ready to bid them farewell, and it plunged one family member into a fight for her life.
When 12-year-old Kylei Parker and her family first set off on their trip to Destin, Florida, they anticipated a vacation full of sun, sand, and relaxation. But when it finally came time to ditch the gloomy Indiana weather for the Florida sunshine, things immediately got off to a bumpy start.
While Florida is known for its warm weather, it’s also known for its rain, which came down nonstop as Kylei and her family landed in the Sunshine State. It rained the next day, and the day after that, leaving a dark cloud – both figuratively and literally – over their vacation.
Finally, the poor weather passed, though the Indiana family didn’t find soft sand and gentle waves when they ventured down to the beach. The storms churned up some pretty dangerous waves, and beachgoers were only permitted to enter the water ankle deep.
Still, the family wasn’t going to let a bit of bad luck ruin their good time, and so they happily made the most of the time at the beach that they had. All the while, however, an unseen threat was lurking in the water… and it decided to make Kylei its next victim.
The following morning, Kylei woke up with a nagging pain in her right calf, though her mother Michelle assumed it was just a charlie horse. They wrote it off and went on with their day, believing the pain would eventually subside. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Michelle Brown / Facebook
The next day, the pain intensified to an unimaginable level, preventing Kylei from even standing on her feet. When it reached the point that Michelle had to carry her daughter to get her from place to place, the family realized this was no ordinary charlie horse.
Upon returning to Indiana, Michelle brought Kylei to the doctor, who told her to pack a bag and head for the ER. There, she was immediately taken in for an MRI, and after getting the results, they were shocked at what they saw.
Apparently, Kylei had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating bacteria that likely entered her body through a small scrape on her foot. But there was no time to speculate now: if doctors didn’t act fast, Kylei stood a great chance of losing her leg, or worse — her life.
They started by pumping her body full of fluids to prevent her blood pressure from dropping any further, though within a matter of hours, Kylei began slipping into septic shock. The doctors immediately took several more scans of her leg, which led them to a terrifying discovery.
Not only had a large pocket of the infection collected behind her right knee, but it had also begun to spread rapidly throughout her body. If there was any chance of saving Kylei’s leg, doctors needed to operate — and they needed to do it now.
Kylei was rushed into emergency surgery, where surgeons worked around the clock to remove as much of the infection as they could before it could continue upwards through her body. Unfortunately, this initial operation just wasn’t enough.
In the days that followed, Kylei underwent two more surgeries, after which the doctors deemed her free of infection. Sick and exhausted, Kylei then spent the next week in the hospital recovering from the ordeal.
With rows of stitches in her leg, a heavy bandage, and an IV in her arm, Kylei was finally allowed to return home. However, the following months would prove to be the most difficult part of her recovery.
Between the damage done to her leg by the bacteria and the extensive surgeries, Kylei needed months of physical therapy in order to learn how to walk again. For Michelle, however, this was a small price to pay to have her daughter well again.
“We are not completely better, but we are on the road to recovery,” Michelle wrote on Facebook. “We will have numerous doctors visits, physical therapy and blood work to continue, but all that matters is my girl is ALIVE.”
After living through this traumatic experience, Michelle and her family began working to educate others about the threat of the deadly bacteria. With over 100 million tourists traveling to Florida each year, the risk of contracting this kind of infection is higher than ever.
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“I wanted to share her story in hopes that it may help save someone else,” Michelle continued in her post. “We are sharing because this is so critical and so many people don’t know about this. Once you start experiencing the symptoms, it’s already running rampant in your body.”
Indeed, the effects of necrotizing fasciitis are often ignored until it’s too late, as was the case for one Tennessee man who happened to be visiting the beaches of Destin right around the same as Kylei and her family. After returning home from his trip, the man noticed a large black sore on his back.
Cheryl Bennet Wiygul / Facebook
Believing it to be the product of old age, the man dismissed the sore as well as a series of red bumps that had suddenly appeared on his arms and legs. On July 7th – just 48 hours after his last swim in Florida – the man died, the cause of death being the very same bacteria that nearly cost Kylei her life.
Even worse, it appears Destin wasn’t the only beach destination plagued by these deadly microbes. Reports of similar infections soon began to pop up in cities all along the Gulf Coast. And unfortunately for one Tampa Bay resident, news of this threat arrived too late.
Carolyn “Lynn” Fleming lived an ordinary life, working as a bank teller while building a family just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But, no matter her location, she always held onto a dream of someplace far away.
Lynn always wanted to move to somewhere sunnier to escape the icy winters. So, after she retired and her husband died, she finally felt it was her chance to pull the trigger and make a move.
She relocated to Florida, settling in the Tampa Bay area. Close to the Gulf of Mexico and surrounded by palm trees, she was living her dream, and shortly after she arrived, she had fallen in love with the place.
The southern lifestyle was better than Lynn could have ever imagined. She joined a local singles club and, before long, was taking walks, playing cards, and sharing dinner with her new pals. Beyond that, there was one activity that was extra special to her.
While Lynn had moved south, her family still called Pennsylvania home. She would host her son and his family whenever they had the chance to take a vacation. Their most recent visit, however, was not one for the photo albums.
One morning, Lynn took her usual walk on Coquina Beach, and this time, she was delighted to bring her visiting family along. Enjoying the feeling of the sand on her toes, the retiree headed towards the water.
As she walked along the water’s edge, she stumbled over a small dip below the surface. She emerged with a bump on her shin and a small cut less than an inch long. Thankfully, nothing seemed serious.
The lifeguard on duty checked out the wound and gave Lynn a bandage; she insisted nothing was wrong, and the day continued as planned. In fact, later, the family went out to dinner that night as if nothing had happened.
Still not convinced of his mother’s well-being, however, Lynn’s son Wade kept re-visiting the topic. “She got mad when I tried to make a fuss, you know the way mothers are,” he said. Eventually, he dropped the subject — until the next day.
The next day, Wade put a fresh bandage on the cut and packed up to drive home. Once he was on the road back to Pittsburgh, however, strange things started happening to his mother back in Florida.
The wound continued to bleed, and Lynn told her family it still hurt. As days passed, her leg began to turn red and swell. No first-aid kit could stop the symptoms, so her friends told her she had to do something quickly before it got even worse.
So, heeding their advice, she went to an urgent care center, where doctors checked out her leg. They gave her a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics and, as the lifeguard had done, sent her on her way.
Confident she’d be well soon, Lynn went home and waited for the pharmacy to fill her prescription the next day. Everything seemed to be wrapped up nicely for the time being.
When the prescription was ready, her friends picked it up and brought it over to her home. But after they knocked on the door, however, there was no answer. Worried, they forced their way inside.
Traci Stasicha Fleming/ Facebook
Lynn was unconscious on her bedroom floor! Her injured shin had turned completely black, so her friends quickly called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital.
There, doctors immediately began working to uncover the problem. It didn’t take long for them to realize the leg cut was way worse than the urgent care doctor had thought. Soon, they were working to save her life!
Her cut, which started out as less than an inch long, had become infected with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria. And it was causing issues in the rest of her body.
New York Times
Succumbing to the bacteria’s will, Lynn suffered two strokes and kidney failure; her body went into sepsis. She was placed on life support. Her son and his wife, meanwhile, rushed back to Florida.
They made it just in time to watch her pass away. Lynn died holding her son’s hand. Her devastated relatives were galvanized by this terrible news and swore to do whatever possible to ensure that her legacy survived in a way that helped others.
Tracy Stasicha Fleming/ Facebook
They urging others to take precautions around the warm waters where the bacteria tends to grow. “We hope people have fun at the beach but are careful if they have a cut,” Wade said. “We don’t ever want anyone else to have this kind of phone call with this kind of news about their family member.”
Tracy Stasicha Fleming/ Facebook