South Florida hiker contracts flesh-eating bacteria

(WSVN) - It started as a hiking trip, but ended with a South Florida man being on the verge of death. 7’s Rosh Lowe has his incredible story of recovery in The Lowedown.

Wayne Atkins, flesh-eating bacteria victim: “I get blisters all the time, so I didn’t think anything of it.”

The nightmare started with a blister on the foot of 32-year-old Wayne Atkins.

Wayne Atkins: “I definitely have a new appreciation of life after going through this experience, ’cause its scary to know that I was so close to death.”

Wayne has been in a hospital bed since mid-June. His mom Karen has remained by his side.

Karen Atkins, mother: “To have somebody say, ‘Get here immediately,’ is a call you don’t want to get.”

It was June 4 when Wayne went to New Hampshire to celebrate a family wedding.

While there, he went for a hike. Wayne got some blisters, but ignored them until he came back to Miami and started feeling sick.

Dr. Jonathan Auerbach, University of Miami Hospital: “Pretty much every organ in his body was not functioning.”

Doctors discovered he had flesh-eating bacteria devouring his insides, a bacteria that entered through the blister.

Dr. Jonathan Auerbach: “So the bacteria tracks up the body, digesting the body as it goes.”

Rosh Lowe: “I want everybody to realize how rare this is. One in 250,000 cases a year. For someone Wayne’s age, it’s even rarer.”

Dr. Jonathan Auerbach: “If this is not treated appropriately, the mortality rate, the chance of dying, is 100 percent.”

Time was of the essence. Wayne was in a coma.

Karen Atkins: “By the time I actually got down here, he was already intubated and unable to communicate with me.”

Karen Atkins couldn’t bear the thought of losing her son. Her husband, Wayne’s father, died of skin cancer at 33 years old.

Karen Atkins: “In a weird way you think, ‘I’ve already paid my dues,’ you know, 26 years ago when his dad passed.”

Thankfully, Wayne had a different fate. Just in time, the flesh-eating bacteria was stopped through antibiotics and surgery.

Wayne Atkins: “I don’t think I’ll ever want to play the Lotto again, if that’s what hitting the jackpot feels like.”

Wayne hit the jackpot.

Karen Atkins: “I knew that life is precious, you know, my family is my life.”

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