Countless families head to beaches along the East Coast this time of year for a little rest and relaxation. But one mom wants other parents to know that there’s a hidden danger in the waters: Kylei Parker, 12, is currently recovering from necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria, that sent her to the intensive care unit after a family vacation.
Kylei Parker and her family went on a road trip from Mooresville, Indiana to Destin, Florida, earlier this month, where they had a fun and relaxing trip. That all changed during the ride home to Indiana when the girl complained of excruciating pain in her leg — to the point where she couldn’t even walk.
“We made it to Alabama and stopped to eat and she was in a great deal of pain,” her mom, Michelle Brown, told TODAY. “I was having to carry her on my back.”
That’s when Brown decided to call her daughter’s pediatrician. She made an appointment for the next morning. By the time the family arrived home, Kylei had a fever, swollen leg and a red rash was spreading.
At first, her mother suspected it was a blood clot or a pulled muscle.
“Any movement of her leg had her in tears,” said Brown.
It wasn’t until Kylei’s pediatrician saw her that they realized just how serious her condition was. Instead of sending her to a hospital across the street, the doctor told Brown to go home, pack clothes and take Kylei to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, which specializes in children’s health.
“I was pretty calm until they told me that and then my anxiety level went from a zero to 110,” said Brown. “I was panicking, but trying to not let Kylei see me panicking.”
What is necrotizing fasciitis?
At the hospital, doctors determined Kylei had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that enters the body through a break in the skin or blunt trauma, and then aggressively attacks tissue. The flesh-eating bacteria kills one in three people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Recognizing the symptoms early can help survival rates: accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment and prompt surgery are crucial to stopping the infection. Though the CDC notes that symptoms can be confusing and tend to develop quickly. Here is what to look out for:
A red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly
Later symptoms can include:
Ulcers, blisters or black spots on skin
Pus from the infected area
Diarrhea or nausea
Parker had all of the early symptoms. Her mother believes the bacteria entered her body through a scrape she had on her toe from playing on a skateboard before vacation. In Florida, she played in the water at the beach, which is how doctors believe she likely contracted the bacteria. TODAY has reached out to Riley Hospital for Children for more detail.