The press be like, “Don’t go to Florida!” And I be like, “I ain’t even scared! I’m a survivor!”

There’s been a big public commotion lately about a flesh-eating bacteria spreading across Florida beaches. Interestingly, it also happens to be National Eczema Awareness month, which turns out to be a really good time to educate the public about…yep, you guessed it–eczema.

There are plenty of people who could be in Florida’s salty waters right now and be just as at-risk for getting such a deadly infection as they are at any other given time and place. The girl featured in this blog article would be one of those people:

running for a cure

Also, I am one of those people.

I have eczema, sometimes very badly, especially during the summer months. I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night from a never-ending stinging, itching, and burning sensation that sometimes covers large areas of skin, like on the backs of my legs from mid-calf to mid-thigh. Some summers, I’ve had such a hard time keeping the eczema under control, even with the strongest medicines, that I’ve essentially had chronic hives on my legs. At 20 years old, I sat in the middle of my bedroom floor one time in the middle of the night, rocking myself back and forth and crying angry and helpless tears because I had done everything I could think of to ease the pain so I could sleep, but no matter what I did, it felt like there was literally a piece of hell fire behind my knees that would not go away.

I don’t intend to draw pity for myself. I would just like for people to understand that eczema is not always a little dry spot here or a few bumps there. There are people who deal with this condition on a much more severe and difficult level to treat and are much more vulnerable to other very bad and much worse things, like deadly bacterias. In fact, about at least once every year, I encounter the fear that I have gotten a flesh-eating bacteria…

again.

When I was five years old, I contracted Strep B (definitely NOT the same as strep throat) in my leg from pretty much just playing in my backyard in Chelsea, Alabama. Many people carry this bacteria in their bodies and are unaware of it, and women are tested for it during pregnancy because it is most commonly known as the biggest cause for newborn septicemia and meningitis.

Several people–older people, those with serious diseases and compromised immune systems like mine–died from it the year that I got it. I was lucky my mom caught it so soon and I didn’t need to have any amputations, as it spreads very quickly and can kill a person within hours.

It is extremely rare for people to contract Strep B the way that I did and the way the people who died from it that year did. However, those who are greatest at risk of Strep B infection, aside from newborn children of infected mothers, women after childbirth, and females after gynecologic surgery, are older male and female patients with other serious diseases. Though, I was very young, my severe eczema was the gateway for this life-threatening experience.

Ways to prevent any kind of infection from occurring or worsening:
Practice good hygiene: Clean up well with soap and water regularly each day after handling germy things.
Appreciate the good germs: All bacteria is not bad. Medical professionals will advise to use soap and water as a first resort; use germ ex and the like only if soap and water is not available.
Have a good general body awareness: Trust your gut. All you need is a phone, not necessarily a trip to the doctor every time you have a medical concern. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

So what happens if you do contract a deadly infection? Well, I would hope that you could catch it in time and take yourself immediately to the hospital, and maybe call as your on your way to let them know your symptoms (for example, a really strange-looking reddish area on your skin that is quickly growing darker in color). This will let them know what they’ve got on their hands, and they will probably have you go straight to a room where you will immediately be hooked up to a bag of super duper antibiotics. You will probably be there for several days and have that stick in your wrist or arm dripping antibiotic fluid into your veins the entire time.

What do you do while you are in the hospital fighting a flesh-eating bacteria? Eat as many orange push-pops as you want, color in your Mickey Mouse coloring book, get a stuffed kitty named Buttons from the gift shop, watch TV, walk around with your bag of antibiotic fluid everywhere you go, and read all the cards that come in for you each day. At least…that’s what I did. And now that I’m 22 years old, I think I’d do exactly those same things all over again. :)

Shout out to Children’s Hospital of Birmingham, Alabama!

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