Posted on May 24, 2012 at 6:11 AM
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. -- Michael "Bear" Rogers is thankful he went to Harrison Memorial Hospital just before Thanksgiving in 2002. He didn't know it at the time, but he had necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh eating bacteria.
Within three days, his kidneys began to fail. Doctors sent him to Harborview. "To tell you the truth, we didn't know if he'd even make it to Harborview," recalled his wife, Cherie.
Doctors still don't know how a normally benign bacteria can suddenly turn into a ravaging, infectious pathogen, but it often begins at a site of trauma in people with a compromised immune system.
Rogers at the time was a maritime inspector for Washington Labor and Industries. Before that, he was a deck boss aboard the crab boat Wizard, before it starred in the television series "Deadliest Catch."
He recalls he did have a skin rash on his right leg when the pain began. By the time he arrived at Harborview, he was unconscious and his wife had to sign the surgery papers.
They said, "Mrs. Rogers we have to tell you there's a chance we'll have to amputate both legs at the hip."
Rogers recalled he was in and out of consciousness. "I told the nurse I would do anything to try to save my leg and not to cut it off, but they had already cut it off!" said Rogers. Fortunately, doctors only had to remove Rogers' leg below the knee.
Over the past 10 years, Rogers, who is now 59, has had to visit his doctors regularly and guard against infections. To this day, he doesn't know exactly where the potentially deadly bacteria came from.
His family cautions anyone with a rapidly spreading pain or fever to get to the hospital quickly. "If he had waited until after the Thanksgiving holiday, he might not have made it," said his daughter Amanda.