Man beats flesh-eating bug caught from seawater
WADING in the sea at Broadwater, Richard Stockley's mind was on anything but the small scratch on his leg - however, a week later it would leave him battling a deadly flesh-eating disease.
Mr Stockley had been unaware of the danger as he left his home in Cambooya and headed to the Gold Coast in February, hoping to catch some mud crabs.
"I was probably in the water for three quarters of an hour at most," Mr Stockley said.
"I came home and went to work on Monday, and on Tuesday my leg started to ache.
"During the night it got to a stage where it was unbearable, so I decided to seek help."
Hours after arriving at the St Vincent's Hospital emergency department on February 19, Mr Stockley's blood pressure plummeted and he was placed in the intensive care unit.
His daughter, Amie Erickson, a nurse at St Vincent's hospital, watched on as her father's condition worsened.
"Initially they thought it was a skin infection, but throughout the day the pain got worse and the redness spread up his leg," Ms Erickson said.
"At 10.30pm he significantly deteriorated and the doctors put him in an induced coma, on life support."
Blood work confirmed the doctors' fears; Mr Stockley had contracted vibrio vulnificus; a necrotising bacteria found in waterways.
Over the next five days, Mr Stockley went in and out of surgery multiple times.
"It had really got him - they removed essentially all the skin from his leg because the bug had eaten the flesh," Ms Erickson said.
On February 24, they flew him to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital for further evaluation on his leg.
After the removal of his toes, Mr Stockley was woken from the coma and faced a tough decision; have his leg amputated or to endure multiple skin grafts trying to save it.
"We were given the options, and they weren't great," Mr Stockley said.
"I can remember giving permission to the doctors to amputate my leg."
The situation was made harder by the fact he had only just recovered from a knee replacement surgery on the same leg.
"They had to amputate above the knee because the implant was infected (by the bacteria)," he said.
"I had only been back at work six days when this happened - within three weeks they had cut off my leg and thrown the knee joint away."
After his leg was amputated, Mr Stockley spent five weeks at the hospital before they transferred him to Toowoomba for rehabilitation.
This Tuesday, he received his first prosthetic leg.
"I'm so grateful for the treatment I have received," he said,
"One thing in my favour was the doctor at St Vincent's, Dr Meher Chinthamuneedi - had he not acted as quick as he had, I probably wouldn't be sitting here.
"He said to me afterwards, 'Richard, I'm sorry we couldn't save your leg - but we saved your life.'"
Mr Stockley also had a warning for others.
"If you have any sort of open wound - it's best not to go in salt water, especially dirty salt water, where I had been," he said.
"Everyone thinks if they have a cut on their arm, go in the salt water and it will fix it - but the doctors tell me there are a lot of other bugs in the water."