Family of flesh-eating bacteria victim urges caution in the water
Former Charleroi resident Carolyn “Lynn” Fleming liked to read, play word games and take trips to the beach.
Unfortunately, a June 14 visit to Coquina Beach near Bradenton, Fla., with family members visiting from Pennsylvania, proved fatal when she stumbled, fell in the water and suffered a cut on her leg that became infected with flesh-eating bacteria.
Fleming, 77, who had moved to Ellenton, Fla., a few years ago, died Thursday after antibiotics and several surgeries proved insufficient to offset the effects of the necrotizing fasciitis infection — including two strokes and septic shock.
“Her body just couldn’t take fighting it off anymore,” said her son, Wade, who lives in Fallowfield Township, Washington County.
The family is hoping others can avoid the loss they’ve suffered by recognizing symptoms of the rare infection and seeking prompt medical attention.
“We are not telling people ‘don’t go to the beach,’ ” Wade Fleming said Tuesday, noting family members returned to swim in the same area Monday. “We’re just telling them to be aware. If you go in the water with a cut or get a cut while you’re in there, look for warning signs — redness, swelling and pain.
“We didn’t know the warning signs. If we had known, (Lynn) might be telling this story instead of me.”
Family members initially didn’t think the three-quarter-inch cut was serious. After they returned home to Pennsylvania, the wound became worse, swelling and continuing to bleed, and friends persuaded Lynn to get it checked at an urgent care facility, where she received antibiotics and a tetanus shot.
When she later was found unconscious on her bedroom floor, she was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed June 17 with necrotizing fasciitis.
She was transferred to a medical center in Bradenton that specializes in skin grafts, the type of surgery she underwent to replace infected tissue that was removed, Wade Fleming said.
When the family returned to her side in Florida, she was on life support and dialysis. “We were able to communicate a little through squeezing her hand,” Fleming said. “She was still there to fight through this.”
He said his mother will be remembered as “a lady who always wanted to have a good time. She met so many people and was so friendly. She was never mad for more than a few minutes.”
A retired teller for the National City Bank chain, Lynn Fleming stayed active by walking through Charleroi and at a local track. A Pittsburgh Penguins fan, she belonged to book and card clubs and volunteered with Meals on Wheels.
After her husband, Wayne, succumbed to cancer in 2015, she followed through alone with the couple’s dream of establishing a home in Florida.
According to her son, she was a library volunteer and was active in a singles club at her Florida retirement community. She continued to enjoy playing cards, as well as an online word game, and completing jigsaw puzzles.
“She enjoyed going out to eat, having a glass of wine and reading books,” he said.
She is survived by two children and four grandchildren.
She had decided in advance to be cremated, her son said. A gathering to remember her is planned Wednesday at her retirement community. Additional plans were yet to be finalized.
Fleming said his mother had no known underlying health concerns, which can make people more susceptible to necrotizing fasciitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria that cause the disease thrive in warm, salty water and usually are found in the South.
Kylei Brown, 12, of Indiana almost lost her leg when she scraped her toe and was infected with the bacteria while vacationing recently at a Florida Panhandle beach.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .