Russell Kimble Flesh-Eating Bug: Obese Man's Weight Saved Him From Necrotizing Fasciitis Devouring His Torso

By Josh Lieberman on August 14, 2013 3:28 PM EDT

Necrotizing fasciitis
Russell Kimble contracted the deadly flesh-eating bug necrotizing fasciitis, but his fat slowed the virus from entering his bloodstream. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Russell Kimble, an obese Englishman infected with the deadly flesh-eating bug necrotizing fasciitis, was saved from death when his 380-pound build prevented the virus from reaching his organs.

Kimble, 39, contracted the flesh-eating bug from an infection he caught during surgery to remove an abscess in his groin. Necrotizing fasciitis spreads through the body, laying waste to skin, tissue and fat at a rate of about 1.2 inches per hour.

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Necrotizing fasciitis has a mortality rate of 73 percent if untreated, and in Kimble's case, the obese man was told he had just two hours to live. But since the Chatham, England, man was so obese, the flesh-eating bug had to work its way through plenty of fat before reaching the bloodstream.

Doctors induced a coma for nine days, during which time they performed 20 operations to remove 15 pounds of infected flesh from his groin, legs, back and stomach. 

"I had a lot of weight to lose but being a big chap probably saved my life," Kimble said. "Surgeons could afford to cut away a lot of my skin and flesh, which was fortunate as it was spreading fast."

Kimble left the Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent a few virus-infected pounds lighter, and 300 staples heavier--that's how many fasteners it took to secure the a massive skin graft in his left leg.  

One downside of Kimble contracting a flesh-eating bacteria -- aside from the fact that he contracted a flesh-eating bacteria -- was that he missed his wedding day. His fiancé, Verity Ager, accepted his reason for missing the wedding, and the two will be married in October.

According to The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis is a very rare condition that can be caused by several bacteria: group A Streptococcus (group A strep), KlebsiellaClostridiumE. coliStaphylococcus aureus and Aeromonas hydrophila, among others. Group A strep is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, infecting about 650-800 people in the United States each year.

If you're truly curious about what this horrifying flesh-eating condition looks like, click here (you've been warned).

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