Cheryl Bennett Wiygul took to Facebook on Wednesday to warn people about a flesh-eating bacteria that took her fathers life just 48 hours after swimming. “Flesh Eating Bacteria sounds like an urban legend,” said the woman in a post. “Let me assure you that it is not.”
Wiygul’s dad, Dave Bennett, was visiting Destin from Memphis last week with her and her mother. The family had been enjoying a day of jet ski riding and “throwing the ball around in the water” at Rocky Bayou when Bennett got infected.
The family had been aware of recent problems with “naturally-occurring bacteria” in the waters around Destin, and had tried to come prepared.
“My parents were coming down to stay with me in Florida about a week after the post about a 12-year-old girl contracting bacteria that turned into necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) in Destin started circling around,” Wiygul explained. “I didn’t want to believe that. My family loves being in the water. Our county, Okaloosa County, posted an article titled ‘Rumor Control’ in response to the post which seemed to diffuse everyone’s fears. The girl had a cut on her leg so I felt like it reinforced to me not to go in with a cut. I researched a little. When my parents got in town I was fanatical about Neosporin and liquid bandaid. My Dad didn’t have any open wounds. He had a couple places that were practicality healed small scratches on his arms and legs that I made sure were super sealed up. My mom religiously sun-blocked him. We were taking precautions and we were good, so I thought.”
Less than 48 hours after their trip, her father passed away.
“This is so raw and personal to me that I did not want to post about it, but if I can help one person, then it is worth it,” Wiygul said.
They traveled back to his doctor to see if they could help. “They got to the hospital in Memphis around 8 p.m. [Saturday],” said Wiygul.
Lab results confirmed that Bennett had contracted “Vibrio vulnificus, which manifests into necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) ultimately leading to sepsis,” said Wiygul.
“Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that is transmitted by eating undercooked shellfish or through an open wound,” she explained. “There were no bacteria warnings at any beach or park we went to. They do post advisories for high bacteria but there were none.”
“I would never have taken my Dad in the water if there was a bacteria advisory,” Wiygul said, “but it would have been because I didn’t want him to get a stomach virus not because I thought it would kill him.”
There have been a number of different incidents similar to Bennett’s. A 77-year-old woman was infected after swimming just last month in Florida and also died.
“I knew you shouldn’t swim with an open wound but I didn’t realize he shouldn’t be in the water with his immune system. I feel like I should have known and that is something I will live with for the rest of my life. If I would have done more research I would have but I don’t think the general public realizes it either. I do believe if there was a simple sign posted about the risk of swimming with an open wound or an immune disorder, we wouldn’t have let him get in,” added Wiygul.