A 26-Year-Old Lost His Foot After An Infection With Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Raul Reyes woke up with a swollen foot. Four days later, it was amputated to save his life. Here's what you need to know. (Warning: This post contains graphic photos.)

Raul Reyes, a 26-year-old day care teacher in Houston, Texas, is recovering after having his foot amputated due to an infection with flesh-eating bacteria.

When Raul Reyes woke up with a swollen foot one day in February, he and his wife, Joseline Reyes, weren't that concerned. "We thought it was weird, but I said I'd be fine and went to work," Reyes told BuzzFeed News.

Reyes continued to go to his job as a day care teacher, although his foot remained swollen and he developed a blister. It also became increasingly painful to walk, to the point where he started using crutches because he couldn't put pressure on his foot. Still, Reyes assumed it was a run-of-the-mill foot injury that would heal on its own; he never guessed it could be potentially life-threatening.

"We just treated it as a swollen foot and used remedies like hot water soaks, Epsom salts, and apple cider vinegar," Reyes said.

Three days after his foot first became swollen, Reyes noticed his sock was wet. When he took it off, he saw his foot was covered in yellowish blisters that were leaking pus and blood.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed Reyes with necrotizing fasciitis, or a flesh-eating bacterial infection, a fast-spreading and dangerous infection.

"The doctor took one look at my foot and and the note from the clinic and he said I had to go to the operating room," Reyes said. In the OR, blood tests and X-rays revealed the infection was caused by flesh-eating bacteria, and surgery was the only option to remove the infection.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening bacterial skin infection that destroys the body's soft tissues and can spread rapidly throughout the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"They thought it was just on the outside of my foot so they told me they were going to try to save as much as they could, but if it was deeper, they would have to amputate... I was just shaking and crying in shock," Reyes said.

Surgeons eventually had to amputate his foot to prevent the bacteria from spreading to his bloodstream.

It is unclear how Reyes acquired the infection. Flesh-eating bacteria can be found in brackish water and can enter the body through an open wound or cut.

Reyes is currently healing and waiting until he can be fitted for a prosthesis. "From day one I've just wanted to get back up, to be walking around again," Reyes said.

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