National News

Colorado woman recovering after battling flesh-eating bacteria

Posted May 10, 2018 3:46 p.m. EDT

— A Denver woman is fighting for her life after coming down with what's known as "flesh-eating bacteria".

The infection is officially known as necrotizing fasciitis and it is not common. According to Dr. Jeff Bontrager at Lutheran Medical Center, he sees fewer than three cases per year at the hospital.

Sherry Apodaca is one of the few to battle it. She was admitted to the ER on April 28th because of pain in her arm.

"Excruciating pain. It's a pain that you can't even describe," she told FOX31.

She says she suffered at home for several hours before making the decision to get help. That decision saved her life.

"The doctor said that if she had stayed home another hour she would not be with us," her friend Cheryl told FOX31.

That same day, Sherry was rushed into surgery where doctors confirmed the diagnosis.

"The surgeon opening up looking at the tissues can see purulent or pus, kind of like the yellow goopy stuff," Dr. Bontrager said.

That goopy stuff is an indication that the bacteria is killing muscles and soft tissues. Doctors have already gone in six times to remove infected tissues and bacteria.

"Have you ever heard of that story the monsters inside you? That's pretty much what I had," Sherry said.

It is unclear where she may have contracted the infection. Flesh-eating bacteria is caused by common strains of bacteria that somehow get under the skin in a person with a weakened immune system.

"In the patient that's here at Lutheran it's actually a very common, it's just strep," Dr. Bontrager said. "But if it gets in the wrong place like a little bit deeper than just the more surface tissues that's where it can spread so fast and do a lot of damage."

That's when the infection becomes "flesh-eating" and potentially fatal.

"It's a lot to take in because I'm normally not a person to be shut into a hospital bed. I'm always on the go. I work every day," Sherry said.

While she still has a long road to recovery, she says she is grateful to be alive.

"The hospital literally saved my arm right now and my life," she said.