Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco man survives flesh-eating infection after 100 days in hospital

Dwayne Scranton, 48, says he feels lucky to still have both his legs after a minor knee scrape from a fall on stairs turned into a flesh-eating infection.


Dwayne Scranton, 48, says he feels lucky to still have both his legs after a minor knee scrape from a fall on stairs turned into a flesh-eating infection.

TAMPA — Dwayne Scranton ignored the minor scrape on his knee, the result of a stumble in his Pasco County home in early February.

Two days later, the redness and swelling had spread up and down his leg and the pain was intense. But Scranton, a devoted football fan, wanted to see the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 before going to the doctor.

Then he developed a high fever and started hallucinating. His girlfriend, a licensed practical nurse, realized he was in no shape to know what he needed.

She called 911.

At St. Joseph's Hospital North in Lutz, doctors quickly diagnosed a serious strep and staph infection and admitted Scranton, 48. Ten days later, as the full extent of his injury became more clear, he was transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

It would be almost 100 days and five surgeries until he was released.

Scranton had contracted a bacterial infection, then quickly developed necrotizing fasciitis, commonly referred to as flesh-eating bacteria. It's the same kind of infection that Aimee Copeland, 24, is battling in a Georgia hospital after suffering a leg gash in a ziplining accident. She has had multiple amputations, a fate Scranton narrowly avoided, thanks to girlfriend Stefanie Arkin's decisiveness.

"I don't remember much about what happened, but I do remember the doctors telling me I could lose my leg and possibly my life because of this," Scranton said.

Dr. Lindell Busciglio, chair of infection control at St. Joseph's, said Scranton "is a very lucky man.''

"It's amazing to me that he did as well as he did,'' she said. "His case is remarkable, especially the fact that he didn't have any major organ damage or limb loss.''

His age and general good health probably helped him out, she suggested.

"In these situations, we don't always get to know why some do better and others do worse. He was lucky."

• • •

There are many different kinds of strep bacteria, but the strain most often associated with necrotizing fasciitis, Strep-A, is particularly aggressive and potentially life threatening.

Busciglio said strep bacteria lives on the skin and generally causes no trouble. In Scranton's case, staph bacteria also was present, and that may have set the stage.

"The type of infection that Scranton had is common, but the syndrome he developed and needed multiple surgeries for is not common."

Bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin — a cut, prick or scratch. Sometimes just a bruise or blister is enough to cause trouble.

Once inside the body, the bacteria quickly starts reproducing and attacking soft tissue and the covering of muscles, the fascia. The bacteria eludes the body's immune system and sometimes resists antibiotic medications, allowing it to spread rapidly, leaving dead, gangrenous tissue in its wake.

The dead tissue has to be removed surgically and covered with healthy skin taken from elsewhere on the body.

Scranton describes the wound following his surgeries to remove infected fat and skin as a big hole in his left leg that starts at his ankle and extends to his thigh. It was covered with skin grafted from his right thigh and hip.

In the course of battling the infection, he lost 40 pounds. He says he's in some discomfort, and is not yet well enough to work. He has an appointment Friday to determine whether he'll need more physical therapy.

"But I feel lucky to still have both my legs," said Scranton, who has a karaoke business and delivered pizza part-time before he got sick.

• • •

On the night of Feb. 2, Scranton stumbled walking upstairs in the dark, in his rented Land O'Lakes home. It was a relatively new home, and the tile-and-wood steps that he tripped on were clean, so he didn't think much of the incident.

When Scranton got up the next morning, his leg was swollen, but he attributed it to gout, a condition he has had for more than a decade.

Then the fever and hallucinations set in. Arkin knew whatever he had was more than gout, but didn't suspect necrotizing fasciitis. She called 911 because the symptoms were escalating — by then Scranton couldn't walk.

She was shocked at how quickly his symptoms progressed.

"Within three days, he went from a knee scrape to an infection that was eating him alive," said Arkin.

Scranton is speaking out to warn others not to ignore an infection that seems to worsen quickly.

"I was doing the dumb guy thing and thinking it can wait until tomorrow," he said.

Contact Irene Maher at [email protected]

.Fast facts

Necrotizing fasciitis

• Rare infection that kills about 20 to 25 percent of victims. Estimates of incidence vary from about 500 to 1,500 cases a year.

• Caused by several types of bacteria, including those that cause strep throat and impetigo.

• Can result from bacteria entering a wound, such as from an insect bite, a burn, or a cut, or when an open wound comes into contact with open water.

• Early symptoms may include: severe pain; red, swollen, hot skin; fever and chills; nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

• Look for a sudden worsening of symptoms; this is a fast-moving infection that will not get better on its own. So seek medical help immediately.

• Having a weak immune system (or chronic health problems like diabetes) makes you more vulnerable, but healthy people can get it, too.

• Such infections can't always be prevented, but you improve your chances with basic hygiene steps: wash your hands often, cover coughs with the inside of your elbow, and always keep cuts, scrapes, burns, sores, and bites clean.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, WebMD, National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation.

Pasco man survives flesh-eating infection after 100 days in hospital 05/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Motorcycle passenger critically injured in crash on USF campus


    TAMPA — A crash that occurred Thursday night on the University of South Florida Tampa campus sent a motorcycle passenger to the hospital in critical condition.

  2. Forecast: Warm, humid weekend ahead of big cool-down for Tampa Bay


    The weekend kicks off warm and dry on Friday across Tampa Bay with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 80s.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. U.S.-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State in Raqqa


    BEIRUT — A U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital" of Raqqa on Friday, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence.

    This Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State group have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city. [Associated Press]
  4. Florida education news: Lawsuits, lawyers, school board pay and more


    IN COURT: A former Hillsborough County school district top administrator sues the School Board and its chief of staff, alleging board member corruption and …

    Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes is the subject of several allegations in a former employee's scathing lawsuit.
  5. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.