INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (FOX 13) - A family vacation to the beaches of Pinellas County turned into a nightmare for a family from Indianapolis after a mother contracted a flesh-eating bacteria and passed away weeks later.
Richard Martin said his wife, Carol, 50, had a small cut on her buttocks and started feeling like she had the flu by the time they'd returned home from their trip in February.
Carol first visited a doctor at an immediate care facility in her hometown.
"We did what they told us," Richard said. "Not even two days later she was four inches bigger. It grew rapidly."
The wound continued to grow and Carol's overall health worsened. She went to the emergency room twice and, during the last trip, Richard received shocking news.
"The doctor comes rushing in the room and says, 'listen we have got to take her to surgery now. She has a flesh-eating bacteria," he recalls.
After more than two weeks, she was released from the hospital and seemed to be on the mend.
But on May 5, when Richard got home from work, Carol was dead.
She was the love of his life.
"First day we met, I've been with her ever since that day, 22 years ago," he said. "It has been hell... Today is my birthday. My mother-in-law's birthday is coming up. I mean, these days are ruined, Mother's Day, all ruined forever."
Martin's family has theories about where Carol contracted the bacteria, but FOX 13's Dr. Joette Giovinco said it's difficult to be certain.
"It's hard to say because we can carry these bacteria on our skin. It doesn't mean, just because you have that bacteria on you, that you're going to get an infection," she said. "It's usually something that occurs, maybe a person has a weakened immune system, they get a cut, they get an abrasion, something happens and that's when that can take hold. It'll start to grow, it can spread and then it can spread to other areas as we saw in this case."
Doctors told Richard one of the bacteria that caused his wife's infection was Streptococcus, which is the same thing that causes strep throat.
"So you know how common those are. They're in our environment. So, again, if it's under the right circumstances, in the right environment, then it can take hold," she said. "It's really difficult when you have to treat a patient like this because things can go badly very quickly and a lot of times, in spite of everything you do, it still goes badly and we have these outcomes."
In a statement, the hospital in Indiana that treated Carol offered the family thoughts and prayers but declined to discuss her treatment.
Doctors recommend seeking medical treatment if a wound worsens over a 24 to 48 hour period.