John Flenders

My name is John Flenders. I'm a healthy 27 year old male from Philadelphia, PA. Recently, I contracted flesh eating bacteria and I wanted to share my survival story with you for your website.. The preface of my story starts on Sunday, September 23, 2012. I was at a friend's house for a casual Sunday football party. A bunch of us were just hanging out, throwing around the football for much of the afternoon in between the games on TV. There were plenty of times the ball was overthrown into the bushes. I'm pretty certain that I cut myself one of those times retrieving the football from the bushes. That is where it all began. I got a tiny cut on my right-hand pinky finger that went across the knuckle. I didn't think anything of it, nor did I even know at the time that the cut existed. But the cut was there. During the football throwing session, there were a couple of times that the ball was overthrown and landed over the neighbor's fence and into the koi pond in the back yard. I went to retrieve the football and - not thinking twice - grabbed it (with the cut on the pinky) from the stagnant water of the koi pond. This is how I believe the bacteria entered my body. I retrieved the ball from that koi pond 2 times that day... I don't remember exactly what time I stuck my hand into the koi pond but I estimate that I did so between 1 and 5 pm. I noticed later on that night around 1:00 am that the cut I had on my pinky was beginning to hurt more than a usual cut should. I put some Neosporin on the cut, wrapped it in a band-aid and went to bed. The next day I didn't feel well at all for most of the day. I slept until about 3 pm and missed work. The cut on my hand was still burning, but the pain was still bearable. Just a few hours later around 7:00 pm, I noticed that the right side of my hand was turning red and swelling up my pinky around the band-aid. The pain got more and more intense. Just an hour later, I could feel the pain progressing from my hand up my right arm. At this point, I contemplated going to the Emergency Room. Instead, I went home (I was at a friend's house Monday night) and decided to sleep it off until I could go to the doctor on Tuesday. I managed to nod off around 9 pm, only to wake up at 2 am in excruciating, perpetuating, merciless throbbing pain in my right hand. The pain was so intense. I couldn't do anything but focus on how agonizingly tormenting it was. It felt like a fire under my skin and it was trying to push its way out of my pinky, which by now felt warm and hard to the touch like a piece of heated petrified wood. I did whatever I could for the pain: soaked in the tub, iced my hand, took Tylenol. The relief was less than temporary. I somehow managed to deflect my mind off the pain for a bit longer and fell back asleep. I woke up at 8 am Tuesday morning and went straight to the doctor's office.The doctor could see me at 11 am. I went back home and still the pain was growing. I couldn't wait until 11 to see the doctor. I went back at 10 am. My condition was reaching its peak by the time the doctor came in. My whole right hand was swollen. There were red lines up my arm from the infection traveling up my veins, a sight I described as an aerial view of a red Amazon River. The doctor saw me for about 5 minuted before recommending that I go to the Emergency Room right away. I drove myself to the local Emergency Room while wincing and writhing in pain the whole way. My hand hurt so bad that I was audibly groaning in hopes of some relief. As soon I got a bed in the ER the nurse came and gave me an IV. He took blood samples for a culture to determine the bacteria causing this pain. They then started pumping me full with all kinds of different antibiotics, including Vancomycin, which is a heavy duty kind. The doctor had to make an incision in the cut as well to alleviate the swelling and drain out any existing puss. The hospital admitted me right away. I had no idea how serious my condition was until they told me I had to stay overnight and "possibly longer." But how crazy was this? I got the cut on a Sunday afternoon and was in the ER by early Tuesday afternoon, about 36 hours later with a nasty infection. I woke up Wednesday morning to the surgeon telling me he was going to have to operate to get out the puss and save as much as my pinky as possible. He did say there was a possibility of amputation. That REALLY freaked me out. But my finger hurt so bad that I was willing to watch my pinky go if it meant I didn't have to feel the pain anymore. The surgeon also told me that in his 30+ year career he had never seen such a case progress so rapidly. He said I really opened his eyes. I was in surgery by 10 am on Wednesday, September 26. After the surgery I don't remember much because of all the painkillers I was on. Morphine wasn't working so they had me on stronger Dilaudid. Finger with NFBy Thursday, my mom had made some calls and got me transferred to Thomas Jefferson University hospital in Philadelphia to their orthopedic center. Jefferson hospital is one of the top in the country for orthopedic treatment and surgery. This fact mellowed me out, knowing I was in good hands. I was transferred and admitted to Jefferson by Thursday afternoon. There, the doctor unwrapped my wound for the first time. I was horrified and pretty disgusted by what I saw. The tip of my pinky was totally dead and rotting away. It looked like a burnt hot dog that sat on the grill too long. There was an open wound on my hand to allow any more puss to drain. My pinky was completely filleted open. It was also this day that we learned what had caused my Necrotizing Fasciitis: Streptococcus pyogenes, group A. I was at the hospital from Thursday, September 27, until I was finally discharged on that following Monday. I was given IV antibiotics every 8 hours while at Jefferson hospital. I felt a lot better by Thursday. The pain was not nearly as bad, but my hand was still bugging me. My appetite came back and I spent the weekend in the hospital before my surgery on Tuesday. I went in for surgery just yesterday on October 2nd. The surgeon removed a little bit more than half of my right pinky. The dead part of the finger had turned completely black and developed gangrene. I'm on oral antibiotics now and the surgeon believes he got all of the bacteria by amputating the finger. With NF, surgery just isn't an option. I'm currently recovering at home with a bandage around my hand. I consider myself extremely lucky to have lost only a little bit of a secondary finger and not an entire limb or even my life. I've read a lot about NF while I was in the hospital and I do feel very fortunate to be where I'm at now. The first surgeon that operated on me at the local hospital recently told me that had I waited any longer at all that I would have definitely lost my entire pinky. I documented this whole experience with an online photo album. **Contains graphic images** I'll paste the link below if you want to view the pictures. You also have my full permission to use any of my pictures on your website.