A 24-year-old Georgia woman is in the hospital and struggling for her life against a flesh-eating infection. Doctors have already had to amputate her left leg and remove part of her torso. There are some who suggest she might not have gotten to her perilous condition except for doctor negligence.
She had cut herself in a zip line accident while vacationing earlier this month with friends in Carrollton, Georgia. She is a graduate student at the University of West Georgia.
The woman showed up at an emergency room with a deep cut in her left calf. The emergency room doctors applied 22 staples to the injury.
The next day, she returned to the hospital with complaints of severe pain. Failing to recognize signs of a potentially fatal infection, the doctors prescribed some pain medicine and sent her on her way.
Dr. William Schaffner, who is Chair of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as the president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, indicates that this was a mistake.
“The symptom that should ring alarm bells is serious, unremitting pain,” he said. “An otherwise healthy individual with a seemingly superficial injury who has severe pain should have a much more thorough evaluation.”
Two days later, the woman went back to the hospital and was prescribed antibiotics. By the day after that, she was admitted to the hospital. Her worsened medical condition had nearly killed her.
The name of the infection is necrotizing fasciitis. It is a rare but particularly virulent form of strep. When it enters a cut or wound, it produces enzymes that destroy surrounding soft tissue.
The infection itself could have come from virtually anywhere, but the doctor’s initial failure to diagnose it cost this woman her leg and it could possibly cost her life. She has had to be resuscitated at least once and is still unstable.
It is unclear at this time whether the woman or her family plans to sue for malpractice.
Source: Good Morning America, “Georgia Student Fighting Flesh-Eating Disease After Zip Line Injury,” Katie Moisse, May 9, 2012