A LISMORE man has narrowly avoided having his foot amputated after being infected with a frightening flesh-eating disease during a local camping trip.
David Creighton, 63, has this week undergone multiple emergency surgeries in Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital to remove necrotic tissue eating into his left foot and ankle.
Daughter Hayley Thomas said it was "touch and go" at one point whether doctors would be forced to amputate the limb.
"It was very scary, he said he went to hospital with a slight raise in temperature, thinking he might be on intravenous antibiotics for 24 hours, and within that 24 hour period he was rushed into surgery and they were saying they might have amputate his leg," Mrs Thomas said.
"It was very, very sudden."
A week ago the father of four was camping at Black Rock, in Bundjalung National Park south of Woodburn.
Doctors believe a dip in nearby Jerusalem Creek exposed him to a bacteria known as necrotising fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease which typically enters the body through a cut or burn.
Mr Creighton then went to Brisbane last Saturday for a planned week long holiday to watch the tennis and Big Bash cricket.
"He went to the tennis on Saturday and then he felt a bit strange on Saturday night, and went to bed with some Panadol but his leg was hurting," Mrs Thomas said.
"When he woke up on Sunday his temperature had risen.
"Because he has had a kidney transplant he's always been told that if his temperature rises he is to go straight to the hospital."
"It's really lucky he did, because by Monday he was having surgery."
It wasn't until Wednesday that doctors formally identified the bacteria as necrotising fasciitis.
Since then Mr Creighton has undergone two more operations to remove necrotic flesh on his foot, and is on heavy intravenous antibiotics to combat any further infection.
"There's not much left of his foot other than bone," Mrs Thomas said.
"They've got to make sure they've got every tiny bit of tissue that's dying, or it will spread."
People with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to necrotising fasciitis, making Mr Creighton a prime candidate.
He had a kidney transplant about 10 years ago as a result of a genetic kidney disease, and takes anti-rejection medication.
One of the side effects of the lifelong medication is thin skin, which tears easily.
"It just so happened he already had a tiny little cut on his leg from bumping it, and that's where the bug got into his leg," Mrs Thomas said.
Mrs Thomas said the pressure on the close knit Lismore family had been immense.
"Monday and Tuesday were extremely stressful, we didn't know if he was going to lose his leg or his life."
The father of four is also facing a long road of recovery ahead.
He will be in hospital at least two more weeks under observation before doctors consider possible skin grafts to rebuild the flesh on his foot, followed by extensive physiotherapy so he can walk again.
"We're all just trying to cheer him up as much as we can and spend time with him," Mrs Thomas said.
One of the hardest things was having to trade his long planned holiday in Brisbane for a hospital bed.
"He missed the cricket on Wednesday night, he was devastated about that."