A Michigan man has died of flesh-eating bacteria after rushing to Florida after Hurricane Ian to help with relief efforts.
James Hewitt, 54, of Jenison, died Oct. 11 after contracting Vibrio Vulnificus — which lives in warm salt water — after falling into a canal while working on his friend’s damaged boat in Naples, Florida, after a hurricane ian.
The scrape on his leg became infected, allowing the bacteria to enter his bloodstream, leading to sepsis, organ failure and low blood pressure. He was hospitalized and later died, his daughter Kendall Smoes, 29, announced on Facebook.
‘He fought a hard fight, but he went peacefully’ [on October 11] with Joshua, Leah and I at the bedside,” she wrote on Facebook.
“They didn’t know exactly how it was going to go and they really encouraged us to get here as soon as possible,” says Kendall. CBS Miami.
James Hewitt, 54, of Jenison, died Oct. 11 after contracting Vibrio Vulnificus
He died near his children Josh Hewitt, 27, (left) and Kendall Smoes, 29, (right) and his fiancée Leah Venlet-Delano
He contracted the disease after falling into a canal while working on his friend’s damaged boat in Naples, Florida, after Hurricane Ian. He went to Florida
The family said they were “extremely shocked” by his death because non-residents had not been warned about the deadly bacteria.
“We were very upset that no one knew about this, at least not from here, you know, in Michigan. It’s a problem now, this is there and it’s been there and the locals know about it, but the people who come to help don’t,” his fiancée Leah Venlet-Delano told the newspaper. Detroit News.
Florida had 65 cases of the bacteria this year, according to CBS Miami.
His family said he was the type of person who always offered to help when he could and after seeing the damage caused by the Category 4 storm, he rushed there on Oct. 5.
“He jumped at this opportunity because, like the rest of us, he had seen how devastating the hurricane was,” Leah told Detroit News. “Jim is always the kind of person who, you know, would give the clothes off his back.”
The scrap on his leg became infected, allowing the bacteria to enter his bloodstream, leading to sepsis, organ failure and low blood pressure
He was later put on a ventilator and sedated before his family arrived at the hospital
His family is now trying to raise awareness, claiming that those who flocked to Florida to help were unaware of the flesh-eating disease lurking in the warm saltwater, and they want to prevent other deaths. This year, 65 people have signed a contract so far
He was helping an old friend pack up his damaged home on October 8 when he fell and after applying antibacterial ointment, he let it escape his head.
The next morning he woke up to his leg being “extremely painful and swollen” and asked his friend to take him to the hospital.
They immediately started treatment with the appropriate antibiotics, but he did not respond as quickly as we had hoped,” Kendall wrote on the website. GoFundMe.
“He continued to deteriorate and deteriorate in the emergency department and was admitted to the ICU with sepsis, where he was given a total of 5 vasopressors to support his heart and blood pressure.”
On Sunday, hospital staff decided to put James on a ventilator and calm him down.
Before the sedation, Kendall said she spoke to her father and told him, “Dad, I want you to fight with everything in your being and I’m coming and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“I cried in terror as I said this to him, not knowing if I would make it in time. The last thing he said to me was that he loved me too,” she said during the fundraiser, which raised more than $6,500.
Kendall arrived at the hospital Monday, while Josh Hewitt, 27, and Leah arrived on Tuesday and James died Tuesday night.
“I know my father had a big heart full of love for so many friends and family,” Kendall wrote.
“He was so full of life and love and we really, we really lost someone very special,” Leah told Detroit News.
His family arrived on Monday and Tuesday and he died on Tuesday evening
The family is now trying to raise awareness about the disease so that others don’t end up in the same situation as James.
“The people who want to help usually come from areas they’re not familiar with… the dangers that are down there and I think that message needs to be shared,” his fiancée told the local retailer.
“They’re not necessarily part of an organized volunteer group that can receive that kind of information,” she said. “If you have an existing condition, or even if you’re perfectly healthy and have open cuts, don’t go in that water. You don’t know what’s in it.’
James was the second Michiganian to die from Hurricane Ian and more than 100 others also lost their lives as a result of the cataphoric storm.
What is Vibrio vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus, also known as V. vulnificus, is a bacterial species found in salt water.
It can enter the body when open cuts, wounds and scratches are exposed to sea water.
It can also be passed when: cuts come into contact with raw or undercooked seafood, or if it is eaten.
You cannot be infected by another person.
It can cause serious illness or death.
If it gets into the bloodstream, it can cause sepsis — the body’s most extreme response to infection.
Symptoms include fever, chills, skin lesions, and lowered blood pressure that cause septic shock. It can also lead to organ failure and sometimes death.
V. vulnificus is known as a flesh-eating bacteria because it can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, where the flesh around a wound dies.
About 1 in 5 people with the infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming sick, and others require intensive care or amputation of limbs.
Anyone can get the infection, but it can be worse for people with weakened immune systems — especially those with chronic liver disease or who are taking medications that reduce the body’s ability to fight germs.
The bacteria naturally occur in warm, salty water, which is why Hurricane Ian’s flooding has caused a spike in infections.
Also, the leakage of wastewater into coastal waters as a result of the hurricane promotes the growth of the bacteria, increasing the risk of V. vulnificus infections.
Warmer waters as a result of climate change also play a role.
The deadly infections are caused by the V. vulnificus bacteria, also known as flesh-eating bacteria, as skin infections can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, where the flesh around a wound dies