Three weeks ago, mechanic Rob Erke felt a pain in his shoulder, but he brushed it away. The pain got worse, and he went to a doctor, who prescribed him some painkillers. Days later, the shoulder started to swell, and the skin turned purple. We went back, and the doctor gave him a different prescription.
The pain began to be unbearable, so his wife called an ambulance on 7 July.
It Was a Flesh-Eating Disease
In the emergency room, the doctor at Langley Memorial Hospital told the man he had a flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis. In just a week since he was hospitalized, Rob Erke was left with a gaping wound on his left shoulder, struggling to stay alive.
His wife Eilish is shocked to see him in a bed hospital:
“I can’t get my mind around it. He’s never really been sick before.”
The family wanted to share their story to raise awareness of the disease and help people learn the symptoms and seek immediate medical attention. Doctors cut away the dead tissue on the man’s shoulder in two separate surgeries, but the strep A bacterial infection spread to his blood.
The doctors must keep the infection under control, said a family friend, David Chan:
“The next three or four days will tell if he makes it.”
Chan also started a GoFundMe page for his friends, saying that Erke made Chan promise to look after his 16-year-old son if something happened to him.
Erke must beat the sepsis, and then he will be on IV antibiotics for at least four-six weeks. After that, he will require surgery to close the wound on his shoulder. As for manual labor in the future, that’s out of the question.
In 2017, there were 28 cases of necrotizing fasciitis in B.C. Strep A rarely gets into the blood, spinal fluid or tissue and in the last 15 years in B.C., there were less than 10 cases like Erke’s.
Necrotizing fasciitis sometimes happens when the skin is bruised or punctured, and the strep bacteria from the surface penetrates the tissue. However, the family cannot recall if Erke had an injury, said his wife:
“He just complained that it hurt. We had no idea it could lead to this. I just want to tell people not to ignore the signs.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.