The rare disease commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria has claimed another victim: a South Carolina woman who had just given birth to a healthy set of twins and who noticed an unusual spot on the back of her leg.
Lana Kuykendall, 36, is a paramedic, and her profession might have helped save her life. She recognized the spot as something to be concerned about -- perhaps a blood clot -- and promptly sought medical help.
She has undergone four surgeries so far to remove dead flesh as doctors scramble to keep one step ahead of the disease formally known as necrotizing fasciitis. So far, Kuykendall has not suffered any limb amputations -- often a devastating result of the disease.
It remains unclear how Kuykendall might have contracted the bacteria.
Her husband, Darren, told GreenvilleOnline.com that group A strep bacteria caused the disease. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, group A strep typically causes only a routine infection in the body, such as strep throat. But on rare occasions, when the bacterium manages to breech the body's natural barriers and make its way into the blood, muscle or lungs, it can become life-threatening.
Kuykendall's husband told Greenvilleonline.com that Kuykendall is still in the midst of the fight for her life.
"She's still critical," he said. "It's been a nightmare."
He said he and his wife could literally watch the disease's progression as they sat in the hospital awaiting treatment. "The longer she sat there, the bigger that spot got," he said. "It was initially the size of a 3-by-5 index card. But it got bigger and bigger. It moved a quarter of an inch in half an hour."
He told the news website that relatives and friends are taking care of the twins, Abigail and Ian, who were born May 7.
Kuykendall's case comes on the heels of the highly publicized case of a Georgia college student who is also fighting to survive necrotizing fasciitis.
Aimee Copeland was spending a day in the outdoors on May 1 when she hopped on a homemade zip line for a ride near the Little Tallapoosa River west of Atlanta. The line snapped, and Copeland fell, suffering a deep gash to her left calf. Experts believe that wound was the entry point for a dangerous bacterium to take hold in her body.
Copeland's leg has since been amputated, and a family blog says she will also suffer the loss of her fingers. Doctors are hoping to save the palms of her hands.
Antibiotics are used to treat necrotizing fasciitis, but not all drugs work. That's why early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is crucial, experts say.