Flesh-eating disease rapidly attacks Halifax woman
In just a few hours, a Halifax woman went from shovelling snow with her husband to fighting for her life in hospital.
Colleen Hilton initially thought she had the flu on Feb. 2. Doctors realized her rapidly deteriorating health was due to something far more serious, necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease.
“She went from being a perfectly healthy person to being hooked up to 14 IV bottles, and they are putting in a breathing tube. It just went that quick, in the space of hours,” Colleen’s husband Larry Hilton told CTV Atlantic on Friday. “The night before . . . she was perfectly fine.”
Colleen was moved from Dartmouth General Hospital to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, and placed in an induced coma. Larry said doctors told him a Group A streptococcal infection was to blame.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, streptococcus A is a common bacterium usually transmitted through direct contact with or inhalation of discharges or droplets from an infected person's nose or mouth.
The vast majority of strep A infections present as non-life-threatening conditions, such as strep throat or impetigo, a skin condition.
In rare cases, the bacteria can get into parts of the body that it doesn’t normally, such as the bloodstream. These “invasive” strep A infections can be life-threatening.
There were 1,827 reported cases of invasive strep A in 2014, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. That translates to 5.14 cases per 100,000 people.
A GoFundMe crowdfunding page started by the couple’s daughter Victoria has raised about $6,500 to help the family cope with associated costs.
“After multiple surgeries, they managed to get her infection under control and now, going on six weeks in three different hospitals and five different units, she is conscious and healing well,” Victoria wrote on the GoFundMe website. “As a result of some of the medications required to save her life, my mum is now facing multiple amputations/partial amputations of her hands and feet due to extensive blood clotting.”
Larry said doctors gave Colleen “a very low chance of surviving the night” when she was first brought to hospital. He remains hopeful that his wife of 35 years will overcome the rare disease.
“The other day she was sitting up and they actually put her in a wheel chair. That to me was great. A moment to see her,” Larry said.
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown