Web Zap*Germs Archive

April 22, 2005

Nobel-winning Physicist Discusses Arm Amputation from Flesh-eating Strep Infection

Eric Cornell, a Nobel laureate at the University of Colorado in Boulder, spoke with media recently about his near-death experience in October 2004 [full transcript here]. After developing flulike symptoms and a sore shoulder, he passed out while watching the World Series on TV (Boston won, by the way). Cornell was rushed to the hospital and endured nearly a dozen surgeries to stop a rapidly moving, flesh-eating strep infection. Surgeons had to remove his entire left arm and shoulder to save his life, then graft skin onto the wounds.
Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused when cuts, sores or other breaks in the skin allow strep bacteria to invade the body. But in Cornell's case, doctors couldn't determine how he acquired it, he said.

"It just wasn't my lucky day, I guess," he said. "What almost certainly happened is I must have had a little scratch or a cut there, and then had that scratch or cut exposed to the invasive form of the strep bacteria.

"But the original scratch or cut was never found," he said.

Cornell is happy to be alive, and working his way back to a fulltime teaching and research schedule. Read the article -- you'll be encouraged by his attitude, and maybe thankful for your own situation as well.


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