Man with flesh-eating disease saved by Southeast Health

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — For the Meredith family, a trip to Panama City Beach was an annual tradition for some fun in the sun. 

But this time, things almost turned deadly for father Tony Meredith. 

“I almost lost my leg or my life,” Meredith said. 

It started off with flu-like symptoms around five days after he got back, but as Meredith got worse, he began getting medical help.

At first, a nurse practitioner thought it was a kidney infection, but it wasn’t until he discovered his leg was turning purple that the Colquitt resident decided to go to Southeast Health.

(Courtesy of Barbara Meredith)

Meredith was put on triage, and eventually, doctors took a bacterial culture to see what was going on.

“Dr. Hewitt, I think it was, had told me it was a type of strep, but then on Tuesday, when he’d come and seen me, he told me it was the flesh-eating kind,” he said.

Meredith had necrotizing fasciitis, which had seeped into a barely noticeable scratch below his knee while he was in the water. 

The scratch, outlined by Tony’s wife, Barbara (Courtesy)

“The skin is the body’s most important barrier to infection,” Dr. Andrew Sawyer said. “Any violation of that skin, even something as small as a scratch has the potential to increase the potential for waterborne infection.”

Upon finding the cause, doctors then applied powerful antibiotics to kill the infection.

Meredith said that any beachgoer should be aware of the risks of playing in the ocean water. 

“Anybody that’s going to the beach, they need to really, really be real cautious before getting in the sand or the water,” he said. “I never thought it would happen to me.”

A few days ago, the Florida Department of Health in Bay County told beachgoers that while it is safe, they should still exercise caution. 

An examination of reported cases of flesh-eating bacteria in 2019 shows that Meredith is the first confirmed case this year to have originated in Panama City so far.

Despite the ordeal, he said all he has now is a throbbing foot and a four-week recovery period.

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