Bridge City man survives flesh-eating bacteria

Four trips to emergency rooms revealed Bert Fink's true diagnosis: necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.

A few weeks after emergency surgery, Bert Fink looks healthy. The only cue that something's wrong is the device he packs with him.

"It's just pulling out the bad stuff," he said, describing the pump that drains a massive wound on his back that came from something much worse.

"We noticed a spot on my back that started out like a pimple," said Bert.
 
Within days, his wife D-Nan says the infection took a turn.
 
"This wound was getting so big," she said. "It was turning black. It had pus."
 
The Finks made three trips to local emergency rooms, where doctors diagnosed Bert with cellulitus. A fourth trip and emergency surgery revealed the true diagnosis: necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.
 
"There are about 700 to 1,000 cases a year in the United States," said Dr. Jennifer Weber with Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas. She says those low numbers make the diagnosis a rare one.
 
"Generally, it's through natural bodies of water, so swimming in a lake or ocean or river," Dr. Weber said.
 
That is what troubles the Finks even more than Bert's obscure diagnosis.
 
"We haven't been swimming in a year in any of these places," Bert said. "The only thing we've come into contact with is our bath water at home."
 
Home for the Finks is Bridge City, where the topic of water quality is gaining national attention thanks to consumer advocate Erin Brockovich and her team, which includes Bob Bowcock.
 
Bowcock says manganese and iron that turned some residents' water brown and clogged up appliances could be building up as a sludge in pipes.
 
"Iron is one of the number one food sources for bacteria," said Bowcock. "What's happening is we're building bacteria colonies in our distribution systems. That's called biofouling."
 
There's no way to know for sure if there's a connection between Bridge City's water issues and Bert's infection, according to Dr. Weber. But the Finks say they aren't taking any chances.
 
"I wash his back with distilled water," D-Nan said.
 
Added Bert: "Because we're just scared of it."
 
A family member set up a GoFundMe account to help cover some of Bert's medical expenses.
 

(© 2016 KBMT)


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