Alabama Man Gets Flesh-Eating Bacteria on Kayaking Trip: 'Stay Out of the River!'

A family kayaking trip turned into a nightmare for an Alabama man who contracted a rare bacterial infection that can kill up to one in three of its victims.

Ricky Rutherford, 41, was enjoying a day at Second Creek in Waterloo with family and friends when he was infected with necrotizing fasciitis, wife Cassey Rutherford told NBC affiliate WAFF.

Cassey wrote in a series of Facebook posts that Ricky came home from work with a 103 degree fever and pain in his legs on July 8, two days after their kayaking trip.

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He initially dismissed the pain as leg cramps from working in the heat, but by the next day, still had a fever and was barely able to walk.

Ricky was treated with antibiotics after a trip to the emergency room, but returned to the ER for a second time after his fever worsened.

Cassey said doctors initially suspected a flesh-eating bacteria was responsible for her husband’s illness, but dismissed the notion – until they sent away cultures from his skin that confirmed the worst.

“It was confirmed today by cultures that this is in fact what I told them it was when I brought him to the hospital. It is the FLESH EATING BACTERIA!!!” she wrote on Facebook Sunday. “Please for the love of GOD stay out of the [Tennessee] river!!! My husband is fighting for his life right now because of this horrible thing! I was one of those people who thought it would never happen to my family but look where we are now. We are paying the ultimate price! What seemed like a normal fun activity that we enjoyed as a family has turned into a nightmare!”

The cultures were provided by necrotic tissue in Ricky’s leg that was removed during surgery on Friday.

Cassey, who said doctors told her that Ricky’s was the third bacteria-related case to hit the hospital in a week, wrote on Facebook that his condition had improved by Monday despite a serious downward turn over the weekend.

“It’s crazy to think that on Saturday they prepared me for the worst thing that could happen they prepared me to say goodbye and two short days later they gave me a miracle!” she wrote. “Ricky Rutherford has beat the worst of this!”

Ricky remains hospitalized as of Tuesday night, though Cassey said Monday her husband’s surgeon said he would likely only have to stay for another week.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can lead to sepsis, shock and organ failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It typically enters the body through cuts and scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds, and injuries that don’t break the skin.

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Early treatment is key to curing it, and symptoms include a red or swollen area of the skin that spreads quickly, as well as severe pain and fever.

“The doctors told us it could be a microscopic hole that it could come into and still spread like that,” Cassey told WAFF. “It’s hard to believe that there was a group of us and my husband, being the healthiest immune system, got this.”

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