Camden, SC (WLTX) - The Flesh-eating bacteria has caught national headlines recently with cases in the Upstate and in Georgia; however, a Midlands woman has a survival story of her own, and she shared it with News19.
In a rural home near Camden is a family who has a lot of fight in them. Four generations worth of women who, as a family, have experienced something that very few people do.
"You have no idea," said matriarch and great-grandmother Helen Ray. "It's something you don't want nobody to have to go through."
It all started back in 2005 with one small symptom.
"I started noticing little bumps," explained Helena Hoover, "red with black center bumps on my right leg."
At the time, Hoover was diagnosed with bug bites.
"The inside of my knee was coming out," Hoover explains. "How a doctor could not have realized what was going on and how serious it was."
But after severe pain and swelling, another doctor gave her a very different diagnosis.
"When he realized it was Necrotizing Fasciitis he realized the seriousness of it and he tried to prepare my family. He was like, 'she may lose her leg, it may be amputated or she may die.'"
From untreated MRSA developed Necrotizing Fasciitis, more commonly known as the flesh-eating bacteria.
"I couldn't imagine going through it," Helena said through tears-- although she's not crying for what she went through. Because of the severity of her situation and the pain, doctors kept Helena semi-unconscious, making it hard for her to remember what happened. But knowing that her family watched her suffer is hard to bear.
"Especially when I would go in for debridements," she shares, "and they didn't know if I would ever come out or if I did come out if I would have my leg or not."
Through 30 surgeries and a one month stay in the hospital, she does remember some things.
"The pain. Especially with the dressing changes. It was out of this world. I mean, the pain is really something that you'll never forget. It felt like they were just ripping everything off of my leg."
She also won't forget the unconditional love from her family and her "then" boyfriend.
"My mom was talking to him and she said, 'she may not have her leg' and they would understand if he didn't want to be with me anymore. But he was like, "I love her, I don't care if I have to carry her out.' He said, 'I'm not in love with her leg I'm in love with her'. "
They're now married with two children.
Through this devastating experience Helena lost some of her leg but gained insight.
"If you go to one doctor and you feel like something's not right... I believe in second opinions now. Believe in second opinions!"
She also has an appreciation for things in life that many take for granted.
"You cherish the small things and you look at things in a different way."
Necrotizing Fasciitis is caused by bacteria that humans are unable to avoid. It rarely develops into flesh-eating bacteria, but doctors say cleaning cuts or wounds properly is very important and if the pain doesn't match the wound, see your doctor.