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Fighting flesh-eating bacteria

Long-term expat Ed Olieslagers is on a mission to raise awareness about necrotizing fasciitis, better known as “flesh-eating bacteria”, after a mosquito bite ended up costing him the lower half of his left leg.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 5 February 2023, 11:00AM

LEFT: Ed Olieslagers’ foot pictured when he arrived at hospital. RIGHT: Ed with his lower left leg amputated four months later. Photos: Supplied

LEFT: Ed Olieslagers’ foot pictured when he arrived at hospital. RIGHT: Ed with his lower left leg amputated four months later. Photos: Supplied

“It can happen to anyone at any moment. The medical world has too little experience of it and the symptoms are often identified too late. Negligence of people to pay attention to a small harmless wound is the start of the problem,” Ed warns.

Ed, originally from the Netherlands, is 62 years old and has been living in Thailand since 2006. During that time he lived in Phuket from 2010-2014. The former ‘global/strategical purchaser’ for ‘Volvo Car / Volvo Bus’ is now living in Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima, but will be moving back to Phuket this year.

The diagnosis came on April 17 last year after a mosquito bite had become inflamed and just got worse. “The first signs were terrible pains, which were similar to gout symptoms,” Ed recalled.

After becoming worried about the continuing signs of infection, he first saw a rheumatologist, and four hours later he was at a hospital. In one way, Ed was lucky; the doctors at the hospital correctly diagnosed the infection after just two hours. That said, the disturbing rate of infection was easy to identify. Ed provided photos showing the damage done to his foot in those two hours.

“And that was only the beginning of a long period of operations, medications and terrible pains that I still cannot describe in words,” said Ed.

In total Ed underwent nine operations, finally resulting in the amputation of his left leg above knee. His lower right leg was also amputated, below the knee, due to related complications with thrombosis.

“I was finally discharged from the hospital on August 15, 2022. In total, I lost 25kg of weight over the course of four months,” Ed noted. During that time, there were several periods where serious concerns were raised about whether he would survive.

“I woke up the next day [Aug 16], and found myself wondering what am I going to do?” Ed recalled. The emotional impact was deep, and took quite some time for him to come to terms with his new situation. “Acceptance of the status and solve the problems as they appear,” he said.

Physical and financial recovery were also key priorities. “Make a plan to survive in order to become independent and train the body back in shape as soon as possible,” Ed noted.

The infection and hospitalisation had hit Ed financially. Before COVID-19, he ran a successful swimming pool design and construction business, Samui Water Solutions Co Ltd. However, like many other businesses, the impact of the pandemic saw his business collapse.

Pacific Prime Thailand

His savings depleted and with no income resulting in his social insurance falling short, Ed has launched an appeal on Go Fund Me. The appeal, ‘Ed Olieslagers’s Road to Mobility’, has a target of €50,000 (about B1.78 million). So far he has received donations of only about €780 (about B27,802).

The goal is to pay the outstanding medical bills, which so far have been covered by Australian friend Judy, for which Ed wants to pay back a total of B650,000. A further B500,000 is sought for prosthetics and mobility solutions. “Prosthetics are expensive. I am also planning on using an ATV to get around,” said Ed.

The rest is for support and living expenses, only for the short term. “I am starting a new business, but that is taking time to get off the ground,” Ed explained.

The option of returning home is “riddled with deep holes”, Ed noted. “Airlines will not allow me to travel alone without prosthetics. On returning home it will take four weeks just for a formal notification of address and a request for social welfare will take at least eight weeks to process. After that health insurance for a returning expat will take a further eight weeks, and any evaluations for prosthetics will take eight to 12 weeks before they start,” he said.

To support his appeal, the Immortals motorbike club held a fundraising event for Ed in Nakhon Ratchasmia last Saturday (Jan 28), during which the dangers of necrotizing fasciitis were highlighted.

Through his appeal, Ed explains at length how vital awareness of necrotizing fasciitis, a form of strep bacterial infection, is. “There is no awareness of this disease and even little knowledge in the medical world in general. Treatment starts often with trial and error,” Ed notes.

“In my specific case, the body started reacting positively and then a new infection developed again and again… I finally ended up twice in a sepsis situation, meaning the body started switching off non-vital parts, which results in death unless you take emergency action like amputations,” he explained.

“My case came from a mosquito bite. It can start from any damage of the skin tissue,” he added, noting that necrotizing fasciitis infections can come from cat scratches, an open wound on the foot from a misstep and even shaving.

“People are happy in ignorance, thinking, ‘Oh, it’s nothing. Why bother? It will not happen to me.’ That is a big risk, not only for people with diabetes and cellulitis, but anybody like you and me,” he said. And although rare, “Children not excluded!” he added.

“The emotional part of this I can handle now… but nobody is raising awareness about it. I have to do it myself, and tomorrow I have to do better than today!” said Ed.

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Transgender | 07 February 2023 - 20:28:16

CDS would have cured this in a few days


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