Rob Erke was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease on July 7. Pictured here with his wife, Eilish, and son, Bronson, he hopes his story will help others become more aware of the fatal bacteria infection. Submitted photo

B.C. man battles mysterious flesh-eating disease

Rod Erke wants others to be aware of the early warning signs of the deadly disease

A Langley man battling flesh-eating disease is hoping his story will help others avoid the devastation his family is now facing, after doctors misdiagnosed his condition in its early stages.

Rob Erke was working at his family’s small mobile trailer repair company on Canada Day when he noticed a pain in his shoulder. Upon inspection, he found a small, swollen lump, and went to the hospital.

The doctor tested to see if there was any kind of infection, and determined it was just an irritation. Rob was given some anti inflammatory and pain medications and sent home.

By Wednesday, he began feeling sick and the little lump grew into a big, painful spot. He went to the hospital again on Thursday, but the wait time was so long, he decided to visit his family doctor the next day instead.

His doctor told him it was a bacterial infection, and gave him some antibiotics and requisitions to get blood work and X-rays done.

He was sent home again.

On Saturday morning, July 7, Rob woke up to a fever of 39.7 degrees and a huge, purple coloured mass on his shoulder. His wife, Eilish, sat by his side and tried to bring down his temperature until he fell asleep. She then called an ambulance.

“It turned out that it was quite bad and that his blood was absolutely septic, and they said if I hadn’t brought him in right away it could have killed him,” Eilish told the Langley Times.

“So then they sent him to Royal Columbian Hospital and said it was some ‘fleshitis,’ like a flesh-eating disease bacteria.”

Later that day Rob went in for surgery, followed by another surgery on Sunday to remove a large portion of his shoulder. He was supposed to go for a third surgery the next day, but doctors decided to hold off.

“They put some kind of packing in him that’s got a pump that draws all the stuff out because they can’t seem to get a hold of the infection that’s in his blood still,” Eilish said.

“And I was told that this bacteria is quite nasty, it likes to attach itself to organs and joints. And right now he’s having tests done just to keep an eye on his heart, and they’re concerned about his left knee. It’s swelled and it’s actually swelled worse since Saturday, so just checking to see if it’s spread.”

According to HealthLink BC, flesh-eating disease, formally known as necrotizing fasciitis, is a severe, quickly spreading bacterial infection in the tissue or flesh surrounding muscles. About two or three out of every 1 million people in B.C. contract the disease each year, and it can be fatal.

It is caused by many different bacteria, particularly ‘A streptococcus,’ the same bacteria that causes strep throat.

A streptococcus can be found on the skin, and in the nose and throat of healthy people, but most people do not get sick from it. Just how it causes flesh-eating disease in some is not fully understood, the HealthLink BC website states.

“Since this severe form of streptococcal infection can progress so rapidly, the best approach is to get medical attention as soon as symptoms occur. Remember, an important clue to this disease is very severe pain at the site of a wound,” the website says.

“Always take good care of minor cuts to reduce the chance of the tissues under the skin getting infected. If you have a small cut or wound, wash it well in warm soapy water, and keep it clean and dry with a bandage.”

If Rob’s infection is fully treated, he still faces plastic surgery in the future to repair the large hole now in his shoulder.

Eilish also recently broke her arm, so neither she, nor her husband, are able to run their labour-involved company at this time. They’ve been relying on friends and family to help drive her to the hospital, and to watch their 16-year-old son, Bronson, who has epilepsy and cannot be left alone.

“It’s been a bit of a nightmare,” Eilish said.

The family wants to get the word out about their situation to raise awareness of flesh-eating disease and its early warning signs, as they had never heard of it until Rob was diagnosed.

“We didn’t realize how common it actually is, and that anyone can get it,” Eilish said. “It doesn’t even have to be a scratch. Like he didn’t have a scratch, a bite or nothing. They still have no idea how, or why, he got it. And he’s a big guy who works outside, he doesn’t even really get sick often. So for him to be taken out that quickly like that is very scary.”

Both Eilish and Rob are encouraging people to listen to their bodies when symptoms begin.

“He wants people to be aware that — not to frighten people — but especially fellas, they literally don’t go in until they are literally dying. And I know it’s a running joke for fellas, but it’s true,” Eilish said.

“He didn’t really pay attention to his own symptoms, he just sort of put it off, and it could have killed him.”

Eilish and Rob’s friends, David and Norma Chan, have also set up a GoFundMe page — without the couple’s knowledge — to help with finances during this ordeal.

“I just wanted to thank everybody — people who have stepped up to help, to show awareness,” Eilish said.

“The people in the hospital have been great. Friends, family, everybody. And I just want people to be aware. Listen to your body. Hug and kiss your loved ones. That’s about it, really.”

For more information on the ‘Help Rob With Flesh Eating Disease’ GoFundMe, click here.



miranda@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Car accident on Leckie Road backs up traffic

An accident involving a bus is blocking traffic driving near Dilworth Mountain

Top Okanagan wedding venue no longer allows wedding ceremonies

Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park and Kaloya Regional Park will no longer allow the ceremonies

Okanagan College has new entrepaneur-in-residence

Jason Richards, has been involved in a number of start-ups over his career

Kelowna Pride Society looks for community feedback

The society is already planning this year’s festivities

Accident reported on Harvey Avenue in Kelowna

The two vehicle accident happened this afternoon

VIDEO: Car flies across median, flips over edge of B.C. overpass

Dash cam footage shows vehicle speeding across Brunette Avenue overpass in Coquitlam

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Millennial Money: Don’t let Instagram envy get you into debt

A full 48 per cent of U.S. households have credit card debt

Jury debates fate of man accused of killing 12-year-old B.C. girl 40 years ago

Police allege Garry Handlen told a cop how he abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled Monica Jack in May 1978

Most Read