“This can happen to anybody:” Teenage boy became infected with flesh-eating bacteria from football helmet

VISALIA, California — A teenager in California became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria from his football helmet. 

When Camil Flores shared the image of her son’s hand on Facebook, he was already in recovery from a flesh-eating bacteria, but his wound was severe.

“This happened just from a knick, from a helmet, from playing football,” Flores said.

Flores said the infection started on the practice field at El Diamente High School. Her son is a freshman and didn’t think much of the cut. But within hours, she says he got sick. He started vomiting and in the morning, his finger was swollen.

“His finger was 10 times the size of his other fingers,” Flores said.

From there, the boy was taken to urgent care, and then to the ER, and finally, to Valley Children’s Hospital — where he was taken into surgery.

“When the surgeon came in, she could not believe how severe his finger was. It was discolored. He couldn’t feel it. The swelling increased and the antibiotics were just not working,” Flores said.

Doctors say it was necrotizing fasciitis, caused by a Strep A infection, and it could have led to amputation or even death.

“It’s a very uncommon type of infection,” Suzie Skadan, director of Health Services at Visalia Unified said.

Skadan said the district was notified by Flores, letters were sent home to parents about it, and football gear at all of the high schools were wiped clean after this incident.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened to this child, but we wanted to make sure that what we did, also for the safety of all of our athletes, that we took the necessary measures,” Skadan said.

As for Flores’ son, his hand was saved during surgery. The infection was cleaned out, but there was a lot of damage. It’s his dominant hand. Flores said she isn’t sure if he’ll be able to regain mobility.

For now, his dreams of playing football are in limbo.

“It makes me feel really helpless that I can’t do anything for my son and I can’t take this away from him,” Flores said.

She’s hoping parents will see this story and hear her message — to disinfect equipment and keep an eye on any injury, no matter how small it seems.

“This can happen to anybody,” Flores said.