When you book your beach vacation, do you envision stuff going wrong? No, you’re dreaming of fun in the sand and surf. And a family from Indiana were having that great time we all long for – until one of them found herself into a fight for her life.
Yup, Kylei Parker and her loved ones set off to Destin, Florida, for a vacation full of sun, sand, and relaxation. But when it finally came time to ditch the Indiana gloom for the cool Florida breeze, things immediately got off to a bumpy start.
While Florida is known for its warm weather, it’s also known for its rain. And the showers were nonstop as Kylei and her family landed in the Sunshine State, making that nickname bitterly ironic. It rained the next day, too, and the day after that. It all left a dark cloud – both figuratively and literally – over the vacation. If only the family knew what else was in store…
Finally, the poor weather passed, though the vacationers didn’t find soft sand and gentle waves when they ventured down to the beach. The storms had churned up some pretty dangerous waves, and that meant folks were only permitted to enter the water ankle deep.
But the family wasn’t going to let some bad luck ruin their good time, and they happily made the most of the sand and sea. All the while, 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 ache in her right calf. Her mother Michelle assumed it was just a charley horse, though. So, they wrote it off and went on with their day, believing the pain would eventually subside. But unfortunately for Kylei, it didn’t.
The next day, the agony intensified to an unimaginable level. Poor Kylei couldn’t even get on her feet. And when Michelle ended up having to carry her daughter to get her from place to place, the family realized this was no ordinary charley horse.
So, after returning to Indiana, Michelle brought Kylei to the doctor. They told the young woman to pack a bag and head for the ER. It was a very serious situation, and the folks at the hospital soon found that out. When they got the results of Kylei’s MRI, they were truly shocked.
Apparently, Kylei had contracted necrotizing fasciitis. That’s a rare flesh-eating bacteria that had likely entered her body through a small scrape on her foot. But there was no time to speculate now. If the doctors didn’t act fast, Kylei stood a great chance of losing her leg — or worse, her life.
The doctors started by pumping Kylei’s body full of fluids to prevent her blood pressure from dropping any further. But the ordeal was far from over. Kylei began slipping into septic shock, and so the medical team immediately took several more scans of her leg. That led them to a terrifying discovery.
There was a large pocket of the infection collected behind Kylei’s right knee, and it had begun to spread rapidly throughout her body. If there was any chance of saving the young woman’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. Unfortunately, though, this initial operation just wasn’t enough.
In the days that followed, Kylei underwent two more surgeries. Then, finally, the doctors deemed her free of infection. Sick and exhausted, Kylei spent the following 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 eventually allowed to return home. But 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 to learn how to walk again. For Michelle, though, this was a small price to pay to have her daughter well and thriving.
“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.”
And 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, there’s a real risk that some of them will contract this kind of infection.
“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.”
The effects of necrotizing fasciitis are often ignored until it’s too late, as was the case for one Tennessee man. He happened to be visiting Destin’s beaches right around the same as Kylei and her family. And after returning home from his trip, he noticed a large black sore on his back.
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. But on July 7th – just 48 hours after his last swim in Florida – he sadly passed away. It was all down to the very same bacteria that had 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.
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.
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.
They’re now 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.”