Fort Worth Woman Survives Rare Flesh-Eating Infection

A Fort Worth woman is describing how a rare, flesh-eating disease almost killed her.

Casey Sommerfeldt said she was putting Christmas decorations away in the attic last January when she tripped over the boxes and injured her chest muscle.

A short time later her arm began to swell and redden.

"It became very painful," she said, as over the next few days, large black blisters began to form on her inner arm.

"I was scared. I had a couple of MRIs, but they didn't show anything severe. I just knew something wasn't right," she recalled.

Sommerfeldt rushed herself to the emergency room, where doctors said her body was in septic shock, a potentially fatal medical condition that occurs when sepsis, which is organ injury or damage in response to infection, leads to dangerously low blood pressure and abnormalities in cellular metabolism.

Sepsis can be the result of necrotizing fasciitis, which doctors ultimately believe is what caused Sommerfeldt's condition.   

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death, according to the CDC.

Public health experts believe group "A streptococcus" are the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis.

They believe the "strep A" bacteria that had been causing recent sinus infections for Sommerfeldt infected a muscle tear that she received in her initial fall. 

Since Sommerfeldt also has lupus, a long-term autoimmune disease, she is at higher risk for getting the flesh-eating infection.

Since necrotizing fasciitis can spread so rapidly, patients often must get surgery done very quickly.

Sommerfeldt was told she could die if the infection had spread from her arm to her chest and that amputation might be required.

Instead, doctors were able to remove the dead flesh, use a skin graft from her leg to repair the area, stop the spread of the disease and save her arm.

She credited the staff at Texas Health Resources for saving her life and hope others learn more about necrotizing fasciitis.

"Everyday. I think about, like when I'm playing outside with my kids, there's a possibility I would have not been here," said Sommerfeldt.

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