Charlotte County man survived flesh-eating bacteria

6:56 PM, May 18, 2012   |    comments
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Picture of the arm of John Roche



Punta Gorda, Florida - John Roche feeds fish in the pond behind his house, throwing pellets into the water for minnows and tilapia. What this retiree really likes to do is catch fish - anytime, anywhere.

It was on a fishing trip in 2001 near St. Augustine that he caught fish and so much more. Two days after wading in brackish water, Roche awoke to severe pain in his right leg. "I was writhing on the floor," recalls Roche.

A flesh eating bacteria called Vibrio Vulnificus was attacking his body. Once at the hospital, Roche spent 17 days in a medically induced coma. One by one his organs began shutting down and he hovered near death.

"Three times I had last rights," says Roche. "They had given up basically."

When Roche began to recover, he woke up to find that his right leg had been amputated. However, he says he focused on this. "That I was alive; that everybody's very happy for me."

The news stories about Aimee Copeland's fight against a similar bacterial infection have Roche reaching out. He's posted on a Facebook page started for the Georgia woman's support. "I just said, 'I survived it, you can; and if you need any help or anyone to talk to, just let us know.'"

Roche says at a time like this support is essential. It's what got him through his rehab, using prosthesis and eventually back at work as a State Park Ranger. "I'm lucky to be here," says Roche.

While flesh-eating infections are very rare, Roche continues to tell his story as a warning to others, especially people with weakened immune systems like himself. Roche advises cleaning all cuts and scrapes carefully, taking care of your body and seeking medical attention immediately, if you appear to have an infection.



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