Eight-year old boy Liam Flanagan crashed his bike and got some bruises. A few days after, he was dead due to a rare but fatal flesh-eating disease.
A second-grader from Pilot Rock, Oregon is the latest casualty of the deadly flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis — a severe bacterial infection that targets soft tissues in the body.
It Started With A Bike Crash
Liam's ordeal started when he crashed his bike down a hill on his family's farm in Spring Creek. The end of the bicycle's handlebar cut through his jeans, prompting an emergency room visit to stitch the wound.
The boy's mother, Sara Hebard, said the wound wasn't a bad one and Liam just needed a few stitches.
Liam didn't even panic over the deep gash on his thigh. His mother just took him to the hospital and had his wound cleaned and stitched up — a total of seven stitches.
The attending physician bandaged the wound and instructed Liam to go home and treat his wound.
A few days after, the boy was rushed again to the hospital in a condition far worse and deadlier than just a bike crash bruise.
Bacteria Sets In
Liam's condition became worse within days after the emergency room visit. His wound did not heal. Instead, he felt a severe pain in his groin. His mother gave him a few Tylenol to manage the pain.
Little did Liam's family knew that the boy was already infected with the deadly necrotizing fasciitis, and the infection has spread so quickly in his body.
Hebard and Scott Hinkle, Liam's stepfather, said they knew something was oddly wrong when they noticed the discoloration of Liam's wound.
"It was purplish-red and gangrenous looking," Hinkle said.
Liam was rushed back to the St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton. His family was shocked to discover that he contracted flesh-eating bacteria and the infection has spread from his ankle to his armpit. It was at the hospital that Liam received his first surgery to remove the dead tissue infected with the flesh-eating bacteria.
On early morning Thursday, Jan. 18, the boy was airlifted to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland for more tests and surgeries to save him from necroziting fasciitis.
Liam had total of four surgeries.
"They basically cut him up piece by piece," Hinkle said. "Almost his whole right side was gone," added Hebard. "They kept cutting and hoping. Cutting and hoping."
The doctors were unable to save the boy, but they believe the flesh-eating bacteria entered through Liam's wound from the bike crash. Liam died at the Randall Children's hospital on Jan. 21.
Dead Within Days
Liam's parents only had good words for him.
"He was a lovable kid," Hinkle said. "He was so strong and so brave," said his mother.
Hebard shared his son's story in a GoFundMe page to spread awareness on the rare disease. Infection from necrotizing fasciitis attacks the skin tissue and muscles, causing the discoloration of wound.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, group A streptococcus is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis. The bacteria can enter the body through wounds and skin cuts. Once infected, the bacteria spread swiftly in the body. In some cases, just within hours after an injury.
Necrotizing fasciitis also has flu-like symptoms. A recent case of the flesh-eating disease also caused the death of a woman from Arizona who was initially diagnosed with flu.