An Alabama man is “fighting for his life” because of a flesh-eating bacteria infection he contracted during a weekend kayaking trip — according to his wife, who shared gruesome photos on social media to warn others about the rare disease.
Ricky Rutherford and his wife, Cassey, of Waterloo — along with their family and friends — went kayaking at Second Creek on July 6, WAFF 48 reported.
Two days later, Ricky went to work and came home with a 103-degree temperature and cramping in his legs, according to the station. He works in a warehouse, so he assumed he was simply feeling the effects of working on his feet in the heat, the outlet reported.
So he returned to work the next day — but could hardly walk at all when he got home.
“When he undressed he found his leg was red and swollen,” Cassey posted to Facebook. “We immediately went to the ER last night and they told us it was cellulitis possibly contracted from our kayaking trip Saturday and treated him with IV antibiotics and sent him home with two more. They told him if there was any change to come back.”
But things only got worse the next morning — with Ricky running a 105 fever, his wife said. So the couple rushed back to the emergency room. That’s when doctors suspected it was flesh-eating bacteria and ran some tests.
Ricky went into surgery Friday, and doctors cleaned out a 5-by-6-inch chunk of his leg, Cassey said.
By Monday, cultures confirmed that flesh-eating bacteria — or necrotizing fasciitis — was to blame.
“My husband is fighting for his life right now because of this horrible thing!” Cassey posted. “What seemed like a normal fun activity that we enjoyed as a family has turned into a nightmare!”
Symptoms of the disease include a red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly, severe pain — even beyond the infected area of skin — and a fever, according to the CDC.
About 700 to 1,200 cases of the disease have occurred each year in the US since 2010.
Cassey told WAFF that her husband did not have any open cuts, scratches or wounds — but doctors told her that doesn’t matter.
“There was nothing,” she said. “But the doctors told us it could be a microscopic hole that it could come into and still spread like that. It’s hard to believe that there was a group of us and my husband, being the healthiest immune system there, got this. He’s never sick. He doesn’t even have a doctor. To know that he got that when the rest of us didn’t is insane.”
Meanwhile, the family has received an outpouring of support, with hundreds commenting on and sharing Cassey’s Facebook posts about Ricky’s status. She used her exposure to warn others to be aware of the risks at the popular recreation spot.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” she told the outlet. “On Saturday, I was having to think about burying the love of my life. No one should ever have to go through that. Do not get in that water! It’s not safe. Don’t jeopardize your family for a day of fun. It’s right here in our backyard.”