A bike ride in the park isn't always as pleasant as it seems. A Rhode Island firefighter spent ten days in the hospital and was diagnosed with a flesh-eating bacterium after he fell while biking in Ballard Park in Newport.
Back in June, 32-year-old Braden Leonard began to experience inflammation, fever, and fatigue after being pricked by a thorn in his right hand when he fell off his bike. Friends convinced the nine-year veteran of the Johnston Fire Department in Rhode Island to take a visit to the emergency room to see what was wrong.
Doctors diagnosed Leonard with necrotizing fasciitis - a rare bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and destroys the body's soft tissue, also known as a 'flesh-eating infection' - and had to amputate his hand to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of his body. He remained in the hospital for ten days, but remains in good spirits.
"I definitely think my background desensitized me to certain things and I've been able to process this a little more easily than someone without my background would," said Leonard, a lieutenant on the Johnston Fire Department rescue squad, in this WJAR-TV news report. "If I had taken a nap rather than go in [to the hospital] when I did, if I had waited till morning to see if it got any better, it probably would have killed me."
Leonard plans to soon be fitted for a prosthetic hand and return to his firefighting job. He considers himself lucky to be alive (he had a 30% chance of survival upon checking into the hospital) and is appreciative of all the support he received from everyone while he was in the hospital recovering.
Necrotizing Fasciitis can be caused by more than one type of bacteria, including group A Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Clostridium, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aeromonas hydrophila, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common way of being infected with necrotizing fasciitis is through a break in the skin (cut, scrape, burn, insect bite, or puncture wound). However, practicing good hygiene, health, and wound care drastically minimizes the risk of being infected.
You can read more about Braden Leonard's flesh-eating bacteria infection in this Associated Press article.