Local News

Teen returns home after bout with flesh eating bacteria

Posted July 2, 2009
Updated July 3, 2009

— Having survived a rare infection, Matthew McKinney, 14, left the hospital on Thursday – a week and a half after a dangerous flesh eating bacterium disfigured his face and nearly took his life.

Family members believe the rising ninth-grader at Jack Britt High School picked up the bacterium chromobacterium violaceum after swimming at Hope Mills Lake on June 14.

Hours after swimming in the lake, Matthew complained of a fever, runny nose, nausea and an irritation on the left side of his nose. He went to the emergency room at a local Fayetteville hospital, where doctors prescribed him medicine and sent him home.

Teen returns home after bout with flesh eating bacteria Teen survives flesh eating bacteria

Matthew returned to the hospital several times thereafter and was examined by multiple specialists.

A week later, the left side of his face had swollen, his teeth had started to spread, the roof of his mouth was gone and his tissue had started decaying. The infection had spread to his lungs and sinuses.

“I was shocked. I didn’t think something like that would happen to me,” Matthew said.

Matthew’s parents said they were not prepared for how quickly the bacteria spread.

“We broke down in tears and it was just one thing after another,” said Matthew’s mother Chelseann McKinney.

The infection has completely disfigured Matthew’s face, so much so that the teen could not believe the image in the mirror when he saw himself for the first time after surgery.

“It was kinda strange because you want to go scratch in one spot and that spot wasn’t there anymore,” Mathew said.

Matthew was treated at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He still faces reconstructive surgery and antibiotic treatments.

Cumberland County public health officials have called the case "tragic and isolated," and UNC Hospital's pediatric infectious disease expert, Dr. Tom Belhorn, says chromobacterium violaceum is prevalent throughout the environment, especially in soil.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been fewer than 150 reported cases of infection reported worldwide between 1927 and 2005.

21 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • howdiditgettothis Jul 3, 5:07 p.m.

    Kittiboo: your post: The descriptions of how disfigured he is are totally bogus- I had imagined devastation. He looks fine! Not that it matters, but I'm sure glad that it isn't that bad for him.

    As I said in my first response response - you are totally clueless.

    Thanks for YOUR opinion that he looks "totally fine" and you are "glad it's not that bad for him."

    Again. Clueless.

  • mmafighterwife Jul 3, 2:18 p.m.

    I don't know this kid, but he sure has been on my mind since this story broke, I have been praying for him and his family everyday to get through this. Hang in there and hopefully doctors will be able to reconstruct and allow him a normal life again! Keep your head held high and believe that God has something in store for you, you are here for a reason and I will continue to pray for your family.

  • kittiboo Jul 3, 1:06 p.m.

    Look, howdiditgettothis- I was trying to make an encouraging statement about his appearance. You are evidently convinced that he looks as bad as the story made him out to be, which is TOTALLY incorrect. The stories I have read made it seem like his entire face was gone, which is most CERTAINLY not the case. I'm sure he would like to be assured that he is not terribly disfigured. Considering what he has gone through, he DOES look fantastic, and we should try to focus on that, despite the challenges that lie ahead.
    teachermom, considering there have been less than, what, 150 cases of this in almost 100 years, I think the medical profession did alright. The important thing is that he was treated successfully and is still alive, especially considering the extremely high mortality rate for this condition.

  • If the shoe fits.... Jul 3, 12:52 p.m.

    So glad Matthew is recovered enough to go home! Thank goodness for the state of medical science and for today's antibiotics. Matthew still has trials ahead of him as he continues to heal and rehabilitate. If classmates and same-age friends will keep in contact and be supportive, it surely would spur on his attitude and all-round healing.

  • gammasandi Jul 3, 12:20 p.m.

    so happy to hear that this young man is better-praying for his complete recovery-God bless him, his family and the wonderful folks who have had a part in helping him-God Bless America! we still have wonderful people with warm hearts

  • teacher-mom Jul 3, 12:18 p.m.

    That is one lucky boy. He seems to be very mature for his age. I am sorry that this happened to him; however, what is worse is the failure of healthcare providers to diagnose this condition quickly. It is a miracle that he survived. he is going to be fine. God has a plan for him.

  • Go Figure Jul 3, 11:36 a.m.

    on top of physical disfigurement, I pray for this young man's emotional state. That is just as important.

  • headlong Jul 3, 11:09 a.m.

    Brian McKinney, 14 and then call him Matthew??? Is it me??? I read several times...

    Anyway...

    I am glad to hear this young man is back home!!! Good Luck for a full recovery!!!

  • Thinkaboutitfirst Jul 3, 10:55 a.m.

    I am so glad this child made it through the horror. I wish him a speedy healing.

  • Alicat Jul 3, 10:39 a.m.

    So glad the young man is home and doing so well. I know his road ahead is a long one but what an amazing recovery thus far. I continue to wish him well and just know he will do great!! God Bless this brave young man.....

More...