Flesh eating disease strikes home

Flesh eating bacteria

Flesh eating bacteria can strike anywhere, at any time.

Clarene Clark wrecked her car in the summer of 2008. She flipped her car in a ditch after checking a text message on her phone. With only a broken ankle, she never believed that in just days, she'd be fighting for her life.

She looked down just for a split second, and Clarene Clark's car rested upside down in a ditch near Topsy with a broken ankle, she struggled to move.

"I crawled down into this big huge ditch, and then I crawled back up," said Clark.

That's when doctors say Clark contracted a flesh eating bacteria. It spread quickly up her leg just days after surgery.

"I laid down in the bed and I remember them unwrapping the gauze and taking the stuff out," said Clark. "My leg was just rotten."

It became a life or death situation for Clark. The doctors gave her just hours to live.

"The doctor came in and told me if I wanted to live, they had to go ahead and take my leg," said Clark.

While doctors managed to save the rest of her leg, the bacteria's damage became widespread.

"It had stopped my kidneys from working," said Clark. "It went to my brain, so that's why I stutter. A lot of my motor skills are still kind of slow from it. And that's all from flesh eating bacteria."

Flesh eating bacteria cases don't' happen often. In fact only 500 to 1000 cases are reported in the country each year. Of that number 25 percent don't survive.

"It's very uncommon," said physician Dr. Phillip Conner. "It does happen periodically and it's usually associated with some trauma where you have a break in the skin and it allows the infection to invade."

Dr. Conner says wound care is your best precaution.

"The first symptoms often times will be redness and swelling to the area as well as pain," said Dr. Conner. "It rapidly progresses from there."

For Clark the ordeal is now a blessing. But even so, she says she didn't even believe things of this nature were real.

"I was amazed," said Clark. "Because I didn't think you could get stuff like that. I thought it was just in the movies. It's not. It's for real."

Tomorrow, Clarene will receive a new prosthetic leg.

Her new limb will move with her more freely, but what she's most excited about is that she'll be able to paint her toenails.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.