South Carolina mom with flesh-eating bacteria improves, faces rehabilitation

4:59 AM, Jun 22, 2012   |    comments
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(CNN) -- A South Carolina mother who contracted a rare flesh-eating bacteria infection days after giving birth to twins is being transferred to a rehabilitation hospital Thursday, now that she has been upgraded to good condition, hospital officials said.

Lana Kuykendall, 36, has undergone about 20 surgical procedures, including skin grafts, at Greenville Memorial Hospital to contain and treat the spread of the necrotizing fasciitis, hospital officials said. She has been in the Greenville, South Carolina, hospital since May 11, four days after giving birth to twins Ian and Abigail in Atlanta.

Her aggressive surgical intervention didn't require amputations, as in the case of 24-year-old Aimee Copeland of Georgia, who also contracted necrotizing fasciitis in May and lost her hands, part of her abdomen, a leg and a foot.

Kuykendall also underwent extensive hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hospital officials said.

She is off antibiotics and is recovering from the recent skin grafting surgery on her legs, said Dr. Bill Kelly, hospital epidemiologist for Greenville Hospital System.

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"Her prognosis is good, but we know she faces a long rehabilitative process," Kelly said in a hospital statement.

Kuykendall is being transferred to the adjacent Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital, officials said.

Her husband, Darren, said in a hospital statement that his wife is able to stand and take small steps with assistance from a physical therapist.

"This is a wonderful milestone on her road to recovery," Darren Kuykendall said.

His wife is spending more time with their twins, he said. "Lana's strength is continually improving, and she has been able to hold Abigail and Ian unassisted for the first time," he said.

Kuykendall, a paramedic, went to the hospital after noticing a rapidly expanding bruise on her leg, her husband, a firefighter, said last month. She was diagnosed then with necrotizing fasciitis.

A number of bacteria, which are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections, can lead to the disease. When they get into the bloodstream -- such as through a cut -- doctors typically move aggressively to excise even healthy tissue near the infection site in hopes of ensuring that none of the dangerous bacteria remain.

The disease attacks and destroys healthy tissue and is fatal about 20% of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, estimated that fewer than 250 such cases occur each year in the United States, though estimates are imprecise because doctors do not have to report the cases to health authorities.

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