A New Jersey man had both his arms amputated below the elbow Wednesday after battling an infection from flesh-eating bacteria for more than a month. Angel Perez, 60, will likely have his legs amputated in the coming days as well, said his daughter, Dilena Perez-Dilan.
"To see the willpower to fight and his pure grit amazes me, but does not shock me because he truly is a fighter and has battled so much over the years," she wrote on a GoFundMe page to pay for Perez's care.
Perez, of Millville, was crabbing in the waters off Matts Landing, Cumberland County, on July 2 when he was infected with a type of bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus. While the bacteria pose little threat to healthy people who go in the water, Perez's immune system was weakened by medications he takes for Parkinson's disease.
He developed a potentially fatal condition called necrotizing fasciitis — commonly known as "flesh eating." The condition strikes about 1,000 people in the United States each year.
When Perez first noticed swelling in his leg a day after he went crabbing, he went to an urgent care center, Perez-Dilan said. He was diagnosed with cellulitis, a type of infection that is generally less serious.
But a day later, the swelling spread and he began hallucinating. On July 4, Perez went to Cooper University Hospital, where doctors diagnosed the condition.
Doctors treated him with antibiotics, clearing the infection from his bloodstream and allowing his kidneys to recover slightly after temporarily shutting down, Perez-Dilan said. But they remained concerned about the dead skin and muscle on his arms and legs, calling it a "breeding ground for the bacteria," she said.
After the infection worsened, Perez made the decision on Aug. 15 to have his arms amputated, Perez-Dilan wrote on the fund-raising page. "His life will never be the same but we know he will make the best out of it," she wrote.
The double amputation of his legs will be scheduled in the coming days, but family members are taking things one day at a time, the post said. Right now, they are hoping to get Perez outside after 45 days in the hospital.
The Vibrio bacteria that caused his infection thrive in warm, salty water, and can be found in the Delaware Bay and the ocean.
People with an open wound should steer clear of the ocean and bay when it is warm, especially if they have a compromised immune system, said Megan Sheppard, Cumberland County health officer.