Wife of local flesh-eating bacteria victim speaks

Newport resident saved from fatal infection

Wife speaks for first time about husband's flesh-eating infection

NEWPORT - A flesh-eating bacteria that left a Georgia student without hands or feet also infected a Newport man this September. Now he is recovering at home, as his wife shares his story.

John Garner survived a frightening battle with necrotizing fasciitis, a condition with a mortality rate between 40 and 70 percent. The flesh-eating infection occurs when a bacteria found in nature infects a cut. With a rare combination of genetics and preexisting medical conditions, the infection can become fatal.

"He said when he woke up from surgery, 'I didn't think I was going to see you again,'" said Garner's wife Jennifer. "There's a chance you won't wake up from any surgery, but this was much more serious."

A cut became infected last month, but did not go away. A growth emerged near John's left leg, filled with tissue that was dead or dying.

"Within three days, the swelling was the size of a watermelon," Jennifer said in an interview Thursday. "It was eating a centimeter of flesh an hour. So that's why it moved so fast."

Sept. 27, Jennifer raced her husband to Carteret General Hospital when he could no longer get out of bed. Surgeons realized the rare infection could be fatal after a CT scan.

"They said, 'we'll have to do surgery right now,' which was about 1:30 in the morning. Or John would lose his life. Because it was the flesh-eating bacteria."

John's entire body was poisoned by the bacteria. After a three hour surgery, and an uncertain 24-hour recovery period, he survived. Jennifer said jokingly if something could go wrong in her life, it often does. She now tries to laugh off the taxing battle.

"Really it wasn't a shock at first, to me. I said, 'of course it would happen to us.'"

Up until the potentially fatal infection, John never had surgery in his life. He is now recovering at home for the next four to eight months, mobile, and without losing any limbs.

"John is a miracle that he still has his leg," Jennifer said. "The infection usually results in death or whatever extremity it's in being removed."

Donations to assist the Garners can be sent to Reece's Chapel, P.O. BOX 249, Newport, N.C. 28570.

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