29.05.2024

Wrestler, nearly loses leg when strange bruise turns out to be flesh-eating bacteria

A college wrestler nearly lost his leg after a bruise on his left shin turned out to be a flesh-eating bacterial infection. Peyton Robb, 23, tried to shrug off ‘feeling crummy’ at a wrestling competition in March as a stomach bug and to ‘be tough’ like a wrestler.

But he collapsed, vomited and was left shaking after a match, which caused his concerned parents to take him to hospital.

Doctors initially dismissed the University of Nebraska-Lincoln wrestler’s bruise as a common infection. But when his leg became red, swollen and extremely painful, he was re-diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis — a rare bacterial infection that rots flesh.

There are fears that Mr Robb may have become infected when bacteria on a wrestling mat entered a cut or graze on his leg and then overwhelmed his immune system, but it was not clear how he became infected.

Peyton Robb, 23, tried to shrug off ‘feeling crummy’ as a stomach bug and to ‘be tough’ like a wrestler. But it later emerged he had necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease. To fight off the infection, doctors cut out bits of his skin and muscle that were infected (pictured above is his leg during recovery from the illness)

Peyton Robb, 23, tried to shrug off 'feeling crummy' as a stomach bug and to 'be tough' like a wrestler. But it later emerged he had necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease. To fight off the infection, doctors cut out bits of his skin and muscle that were infected (pictured above is his leg during recovery from the illness)

Mr Robb, pictured above at the Big Ten Championships on March 7, 2020, said that a bruise on his leg emerged in March during another wrestling competition

Mr Robb, pictured above at the Big Ten Championships on March 7, 2020, said that a bruise on his leg emerged in March during another wrestling competition

Mr Robb was in and out of surgery for nearly two weeks as doctors cut away ‘black spots’ on his shin, that indicated the disease, to remove the infection. The treatment worked and he has now spent six weeks recovering in hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Mr Robb has been competing competitively since at least 2020 and has appeared four times at the prestigious Big Ten Championships and twice at the National College Athletics Association’s (NCAA) wrestling tournaments.

But while he was at the NCAA championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this March, representing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cornhuskers, he fell ill.

In a post on a fundraiser for the wrestler, it was revealed that Mr Robb battled through at least two matches with the bruise on his leg — losing both matches — before collapsing, shaking and vomiting, leading him to be rushed to the emergency room.

‘I kept wrestling because that’s just my mindset,’ Mr Robb told OHSMagnet speaking after treatment.

‘I thought I just had a stomach bug or something that was making me feel crumby.’

A fundraiser added that after losing the semifinal on March 17: ‘His bruise was now extremely tender but nothing he hadn’t experienced before.

‘He was supposed to get tough, that’s what’s expected from elite wrestlers’.

Doctors in Oklahoma diagnosed him with strep cellulitis — a common bacterial infection — on his shin and gave him antibiotics before being discharged.

When his condition worsened after returning to Lincoln, Nebraska, however — which is six hours from Tulsa by car — he was taken by his girlfriend Taylor to doctors in the city.

They quickly diagnosed him with sepsis — a life-threatening medical emergency where inflammation can damage multiple organs — and detected blood clots in his lungs. He also had a very high heart rate, low blood pressure and severe pain.

He was administered antibiotics and blood thinners to fight the illness and the clots in his lungs.

But it was at this point that ‘black spots’ started to appear on his shin. These indicate that cells are dying, a sign that someone has necrotizing fasciitis.

He was then rushed to surgery where doctors cut out the affected tissue to prevent the infection reaching his bone, which could have led to an amputation.

Mr Robb has had to sit in a chamber for two and a half hours per day during his recovery that exposes the body to extra oxygen. Scientists say this can speed the recovery of cells

Mr Robb has had to sit in a chamber for two and a half hours per day during his recovery that exposes the body to extra oxygen. Scientists say this can speed the recovery of cells

The wrestler was left in 'excruciating' pain after the third surgery with holes on both sides of his shin bone

The wrestler was left in ‘excruciating’ pain after the third surgery with holes on both sides of his shin bone

Over multiple operations in 13 days, they ended up cutting off large chunks of skin, as well as fascia — the cells beneath the skin — and muscle.

After his third surgery, Mr Robb was described as being in ‘excruciating pain’ and having ‘two gaping incisions on each side of his shin bone’.

The fundraiser adds: ‘[The doctor] told his parents, Tracey and Carrie, that he would need to remove as much tissue as necessary from Peyton’s leg until the necrosis (dead tissue) was dealt with.

‘And, I quote, «or your son could die».’

Speaking about the infection, Mr Robb told KCCI: ‘There was a lot of moments where I was just kind of in pain.

‘Sometimes it was just subtle, sometimes a little bit more.

‘[But] I just learned to keep that positive outlook in whatever situation you’re in, and I think that helped me through the whole thing.’

The treatment was successful and Mr Robb was then transferred to a burns unit at CHI Health St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He spent the next six weeks in the unit going into a special pressurized chamber five days a week for two hours and 15 minutes a time to receive extra oxygen, which medics say can speed recovery.

Roy Maurer, a physicians assistant at the hospital who was involved in the case, said: ‘By doing surgery, getting this opened up and kind of cleaned, as well as presenting more oxygen into both the tissue, from that wound being opened, as well as just in the bloodstream, basically helps kind of suppress and helps kill the bacteria in addition to antibiotics.’

Mr Robb is currently in recovery and hopes to be able to get back to wrestling within months.

He is shown above having cream rubbed onto his wounded leg, where the necrotizing fasciitis emerged

He is shown above having cream rubbed onto his wounded leg, where the necrotizing fasciitis emerged

He is pictured above giving the thumbs up from his hospital bed

Mr Robb, pictured above at the Big Ten Championships on March 7, 2020, said that a bruise on his leg emerged in March during another wrestling competition

Mr Robb, pictured above at the Big Ten Championships on March 7, 2020, said that a bruise on his leg emerged in March during another wrestling competition

It was not clear how he caught the necrotizing fasciitis, which is triggered when bacteria enter the body via a cut in the skin and aren’t fought off by the immune system.

But cellulitis, which he was initially diagnosed with, can be caused by picking up bacteria from equipment like wrestling and yoga mats.

Those who participate in contact sports, like wrestling, are also at higher risk of bacterial infections doctors say because of frequent skin-to-skin contact with opponents and wrestling mats.

Necrotizing fasciitis is rare in the US, with about 700 to 1,150 cases in the country every year, but is a medical emergency because of the rapid spread of bacteria.

It can be triggered when bacteria that live harmlessly on the skin surface or objects — such as Streptococcus or Staphylococcus — get beneath the skin and start colonizing tissue.

These are normally fought off by the immune system, but in some cases, they can overwhelm the immune system triggering an infection.

At this point, they start to multiply and spread rapidly, by up to several centimeters per hour, and release toxins into tissue which causes necrosis, or cell death.

The bacteria can then also begin to spread within the body via the bloodstream and trigger inflammation across the body.

This leads to symptoms such as fever, chills, low blood pressure and dysfunction of organs.

Treatment for the condition includes emergency surgery to cut out the affected tissue and remove the bacterial infection as well as administering antibiotics.

About 20 to 30 percent of patients do not survive the infection, statistics show, with cases of delayed diagnosis at higher risk of death.

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