Milwaukee Woman Survives Necrotizing Fasciitis

To this day, Colleen Sosinski still isn’t quite sure how her journey with necrotizing fasciitis began. During summer 2020, she was relaxing and enjoying the sun. Then, as reported by WISN, Colleen began feeling horrific pain in her legs. There were seemingly no warning signs. But within 12 hours of visiting the hospital, Colleen required ventilation assistance.

Colleen’s Story

Typically, necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection, enters the body through a break in the skin. In rarer cases, it can also enter the body through an injury, like blunt force trauma, even without skin breaks. Colleen maintains that she is not entirely sure how or when she contracted the disease. However, as it progressed, large and painful wounds began forming on her legs. These wounds are why many also refer to necrotizing fasciitis as a “flesh-eating” disease.

As an estimated 15-30% of cases are fatal, it was crucial to treat Colleen as quickly as possible. She was transferred to Aurora Saint Luke’s Medical Center and treated within the hyperbaric care unit. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was unable to have close contact with her family. This was extremely frightening, especially as Colleen’s condition caused her to remain in the hospital for over 5 months.

Each week, doctors surgically removed dead tissue from the wounds in her legs. At one point, the surgeries became so extensive that Colleen’s family was told that she might not survive. But through surgery, skin grafts, and lots of care, Colleen made it home.

Although she survived, her journey is nowhere near over. Colleen is still working to regain strength in her legs. While she can walk some short distances without help, she will need to continue practicing this moving forward. She does fear what would happen if the necrotizing fasciitis returns, noting:

I’m afraid of it coming back…I feel like I’m winning the battle. I couldn’t win it again.

But despite her fears, Colleen also feels extremely lucky to have survived her ordeal and is happy to be back home with her family.

Necrotizing Fasciitis

While there are multiple types of bacteria which can cause necrotizing fasciitis, the most common cause is A. Streptococcus. Typically, the bacteria enters the body through some form of skin break or injury, such as:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Insect bites
  • Burns
  • Blunt force trauma
  • Punctures
  • Surgical wounds or injuries

Once inside the body, the bacteria infects the skin and underlying tissue. The infection causes this tissue to die and become necrotic. Early identification and treatment are crucial, as necrotizing fasciitis spreads quickly and can be deadly. Risk factors include being immunocompromised, having liver cirrhosis, having cancer, being diabetic, or having kidney disease.

Early symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis usually appear within 24 hours of infection. These include:

  • Fever
  • A fast-spreading warm, swollen, and red skin area
  • General malaise
  • Intense pain

As the infection worsens, additional symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severely low blood pressure
  • Black spots on the skin
  • Skin ulceration, blistering, pus, or oozing
  • Changes in skin color

If you have any of the above symptoms, please visit your doctor immediately. Untreated necrotizing fasciitis can progress and cause serious complications such as organ failure, shock, and sepsis. Learn more about necrotizing fasciitis.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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