Editor’s note: This story contains very graphic images. Reader discretion is advised.
IDAHO FALLS — A local woman is lucky to still have her leg on after her frightful fall into the water turned into a serious infection.
Rachel Wynne of Idaho Falls had just finished a float trip to Big Springs on Island Park when a minor accident left her limbs infected.
“We were getting out on the water, and you had to have people walk you back and forth to get your cars at the end. My friend went to get her truck so we could load the kayaks, and I had two dogs,” Wayne tells EastIdahoNews.com. What, and one of the dogs saw a stray dog and went to it. He tipped me over, and I fell into the water and hit my knees on a rock. I made a very good cut, about three inches long and an inch and a half deep.
Friends of Wayne called 911, and she was taken by ambulance to Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, where the injury was cleaned and stitched closed.
But over the next few days, Wen says her wound got progressively worse, and the skin around the wound turned dark. She thought there was a crust forming over the pooling blood.
“I was just lying in bed at home, and it hurt and it didn’t get better. It just started getting bigger. Finally, after a week, I went to EIRMC, and they told me, ‘This is really bad.’ Your flesh is dead on your knee,” Wayne says. They took me straight to surgery and cut everything out. Looks like I got bitten by a big shark on my knee.”
Dr. Tait Olafsson, Wynn’s surgeon, is EIRMC’s Director of Burns and Trauma Surgeon. He says Rachel was dealing with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease.
“Over the course of about a week, she developed an additional infection. “It’s an infection that’s often associated with water and those kinds of substances,” says Olavesson. “It was like a flesh-eating bacteria that required removing a large portion of the skin and fat – maybe about 25% of the inside of her leg, just in front of her knee.”
Olafsson says that during the surgery they removed dead and infected tissue until they found healthy tissue underneath.
“In that group of flesh-eating bacteria, they keep multiplying,” Olavesson says. “Instead of it being a real small localized infection, it just spreads. It spreads really fast. It’s actually a surgical emergency.”
A few days later, Wayne underwent a second surgery to partially reconstruct the inside of her leg with parts from different animals, such as cows or pigs.
“Sometimes we use swine, which means pig derivatives, and we also use bovine (cow) derivatives that have been made and manufactured to help in recovery,” says Olavesson. “Basically, I tell patients it’s like a scaffold helping their tissues heal properly to get the best results. You’re trying to rebuild and get back to the most normal position — the way God created us.”
After nearly two weeks in the hospital, Wayne was released on Friday. She is now waiting until her leg continues to heal and may need a few more surgeries to place skin grafts over the exposed tissue.
“It’s not just a simple tear where you have to go to the emergency room, fix it and you’re done,” says Olavesson. “It’s a multi-stage process and it really varies. Patients can stay in the hospital for three to four months, but with (Win) we were able to be aggressive, and she did a good job.”
The experience has been traumatic for Winn, and she hopes to spread the word about being proactive in dealing with injuries, especially in situations where infection can occur.
“I imagine a young child or an elderly person having the same thing happen to them and how painful that would be for them. People need to know a little bit better because while I’m here, they say it happens a lot,” Wayne says. “So it’s fairly common, but I I don’t know if we all know what to watch for or how to prevent it from happening to someone else.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you think you may have an infection, Olafsson says, there are a few key things to watch out for.
“If a condition develops, including redness and fever, it will often smell like rotten tissue,” says Olavesson. “If you have a fever or night sweats, these are systemic signs, this is when you need to reach out. If your temperature is 101 degrees, if you have new, abnormal night sweats, or if you have significant redness or pain You should be examined and evaluated by a doctor.
A GoFundMe account was created to help cover Winn’s medical costs and services. Donations can be made here.
“I want to point out how amazing the EIRMC team is,” Wayne says. “They made all of this as painless as possible. These nurses and doctors are simply exceptional.”
Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories about fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not guarantee that funds deposited into the account will be applied to the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.
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