*Warning: Graphic images shown in the video may be disturbing to some
A Calgary man who contracted flesh-eating disease while on vacation has returned home and is recovering after a harrowing medical ordeal overseas.
It was a terrifying situation for Harvey Kell, 82, who fell ill in April, just as he and his partner Tony Ries were finishing up a vacation in Thailand. The couple had just landed in Taiwan to take a connector flight home when Kell began feeling unwell.
He was taken to a hospital in Taiwan where he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. Doctors told them it was possible Kell contracted it while visiting a Thai beach.
“He went from being perfectly healthy to being in intensive care and (in) toxic shock,” Ries told CTV Calgary this week. “His organs were all shutting down in 36 hours.”
Doctors originally told the couple that they might have to amputate Kell’s leg, but his health began to improve. After a few weeks in the Taiwanese hospital, he was well enough to take a medevac back home to Calgary.
Kell was transported to Foothills Hospital in Calgary, where surgeons performed a skin graft on his infected leg. Two weeks later, Kell returned to his home with Ries.
“I just used the walker for three days, the cane for a couple days and now I can walk without either,” said Kell.
In the midst of uncertainty overseas, the couple’s travel insurance ended the day Kell entered the hospital in Taiwan, as the pair was supposed to be home by then. In the weeks that followed, friends and family started a GoFundMe page and raised nearly $25,000 to cover Kell’s medical and transportation costs.
Ries said he’s learned one lesson from the ordeal.
“I would suggest everybody take out a few extra days on your insurance when you’re coming home in case of anything happening,” he said.
Insurance has told them that they will cover some of the costs, while the funds raised will cover the extra $10,000 that’s outstanding. The couple plans to donate what’s left of the money to charity.
Kell said he’s grateful to those who contributed to the fund. “It makes you feel so humble,” he said.
With a report from CTV Calgary’s Alesia Fieldberg