PENSACOLA, Fla. - A Pennsylvania native who recently moved to Pensacola, Florida, with his fiancee will need to learn to walk again after nearly losing his leg to a flesh-eating bacteria.
Bernie Stewart, 59, took a kayak and went fishing with a friend in Big Lagoon on Aug. 31. After the successful trip, he headed back to his new home.
But not long after Stewart got home, he noticed his right leg turned bright red. Soon he felt like he had the flu and suffered severe pain. Karrianne Logan, his fiancee, said it had even become difficult for Stewart to walk.
That same day, he went to the hospital where doctors diagnosed him with Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria. The next morning, he was rushed into surgery to stop the bacteria from spreading, but it had already made it into his bloodstream.
Logan said her future husband suffered liver and kidney failure. He was then placed into a medically induced coma for nearly three weeks.
While he was in the coma, Stewart underwent five surgeries.
“At the time, (he was given) no assurance that he was going to make (it) or even save his leg,” Logan said. “It was a day-by-day basis and very scary from time to time.”
Since then, Stewart has had five more surgeries with his most recent one on Tuesday morning. Logan said they hope Tuesday’s surgery will be his last. Throughout all of it, Stewart was able to keep his leg but because of his long hospital stay, he will need to learn to walk again once he’s fully recovered.
Logan said he’s lost 80 pounds since the initial encounter but is starting to keep his weight stable.
Stewart said he never saw any scratches or cuts on his leg during his outing, but doctors told them the bacteria can enter the body through the pores.
As he recovers, Stewart wants other people to be aware of the frightening bacteria, learn from his story and hopes waters will get tested for the organism.
“We are new to the area and had he known that this area is prone to the bacteria he would have stayed out of this area,” Logan said. “There was a total of six in this hospital while he has been here. Some were not so lucky! People need to know how serious and bad this is.”
This story was reported from Los Angeles.