KALAHEO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kolohe Kapu, 31, considers himself fortunate.
"I was out of there fast. I was the lucky one. A lot of people don't make it out. I didn't really realize how bad it was until after surgery. I mean I had a doctor come and tell me I was this close for them losing me. I mean to be known to be this close that I almost died. It really open your eyes," Kapu told Hawaii News Now while sitting in the bedroom of his home in Kalaheo on Kauai Monday.
Kapu is the second Kauai man to be treated for necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh eating bacteria, this year.
"I can't believe what I went through and I can't believe what I put my family through. I'm just thankful to be here," Kapu added.
Kapu went to Wilcox Memorial Health Center February 5 thinking he had a horrible case of the flu.
"I felt like I was dying to tell you the truth. 102 fever. 103 fever. Just feel droopy. No strength. No energy," he said. "They did a bunch of tests and once they got the test results back, boom, I went straight to surgery."
"He had a big leg infection and I ended up having to cut out about a ten inch long strip of tissue, was about 3 inches deep and three or four inches wide, to get all the infection out," said Dr. Chris Jordan, who performed emergency surgery on Kapu.
"The earlier you get to surgery, the better off you are. It's just not something antibiotics alone will take care of. You actually have to have surgery," Jordan told Hawaii News Now.
Kapu was infected with both streptococcus and peptococcus bacteria.
The other Kauai man infected flesh eating bacteria this year, John Stem, 49, was infected with mersa, a contagious staph bacteria. Stem has been moved from Wilcox to Straub Clinic and Hospital on Oahu for specialized treatment. Stem's mother said Monday her son has new infections but appears to be improving.
Kapu spent 26 days in the hospital. He went home on March 1. A nurse comes three times a week to check his vital signs and change the dressing on his wound. He looks forward to the day when he is completely healed.
"Half of my wound is almost completely closed. And the other half is about 75% closed, so I'm hoping within the next three weeks maybe at the most," Kapu said.
He is not certain where he picked up the bacteria, but thinks it got into a boil while he was swimming in the ocean off Oahu's Waianae Coast in late January. Now both Kapu and his doctor want others to know how serious necrotizing fasciitis is and what they can do to lower the risk on becoming infected.
"What I want people to know about necrotizing fasciitis is that it is a very serious life threatening condition and if you have a skin condition, for instance, the pain is out of proportion to what you would normally see from a regular infection or the tissue feels like there is gas there or it is really swollen and tense or you have a really high fever or your blood pressure is low or your pulse is really fast, you really should get to the emergency room as soon as you can," Dr. Jordan said.
"A lot of people say, 'Oh, I've been swimming in streams since I was a little kid. It's not going to happen to me.' Well, I've been swimming in streams since I was a little kid. I'm 31 and it's happened to me. You just got to be safe," Kapu said.
"Watch your kids. Whenever they come home from the beach or from swimming in the river always make sure they take a good shower, you know. It's more common than people think it is," Kapu concluded.
"I've been a surgeon now for a little over 30 years and I've probably seen eight or ten cases," Jordan said.
"We've had two cases, which is a lot for one year for us, but I think kind of random that they came in at the same time and not that we are having an epidemic. So I just wanted to reassure the public that I think things are okay here," Jordan said.
The Hawaii Department of Health has advised people to stay out of brown ocean water contaminated by runoff from heavy rain and advises anyone who swims in dirty water or streams to wash thoroughly.
Click on the links below to learn more about necrotizing fasciitis.