PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - For Brandy Colwell, an abscess in her skin turned out to be a life-changing battle. Just two days after her first visit to the ER, doctors at St. Francis Hospital made a startling discovery.
"The doctor came in, and said they were going to go ahead and do emergency surgery on her," Colwell's sister Lisa Waldrop explains. "That she had a flesh eating bacteria that was life threatening, and he didn't know what he was going to find when he got in there, but he needed to go ahead and get in there."
Which would soon become a series of life saving surgeries to stop the rapid spread of the infection.
"He actually had to cut her all the way from the pelvic area to right by her ribs," Waldrop adds.
The procedure left a wound around 20 inches long where doctors removed tissue near the muscle.
Still, doctors were not sure if they had gotten rid of all the infected tissue, telling family members that waiting 48 hours longer would determine if Brandy would live or die. It was dilemma Brandy's husband Blake says he couldn't stomach.
"I have a 6-year-old son, and a few days later, you know, you sit there and think 'I can't do this by myself," Blake said.
In 2013, 41 cases of flesh eating bacteria were reported. Eleven of them resulted in death. Doctors say these infections under the skin are more common between the months of May and October.
"It's usually a deep space infection," said Dr. Kevin King with St. Francis Hospital. "So, usually, it has access to an area that is not normally accessed by bacteria. So, it usually can spread very aggressively."
Now, a week into her treatment, Brandy is out of ICU, and will need about six weeks to recover. It's a journey the family is more than willing to support.
Blake adds, "It's not just money, it's not okay can you come get this for me. It's okay, you can help me take my dogs out."
An account to help the family with mounting medical costs have been set up at the BB&T Bank on Broad Street in Phenix City. Doctor's don't believe Brandy got her infection from the water like some of the more popular cases.
Since bacteria exists virtually everywhere, Dr. King recommends staying physically active and taking care of your skin and personal hygiene to keep you safe from the bacteria.