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OZONA, Fla. — An Ozona man is feeling lucky to be alive two weeks after he contracted a rare, flesh-eating bacteria on a fishing trip in the Gulf.
- Ozona fisherman contracts rare, flesh-eating bacteria
- Mike Walton had to have emergency surgery to save his life
- Walton warns other fishermen to take precautions
Mike Walton grew up in the small community of Ozona near Palm Harbor, and has fished his entire life. Two weeks ago, he was out fishing and a hook cut the palm of his hand. He didn’t think anything of it, because as a fisherman it happens all the time.
The next day, Walton went to urgent care and was prescribed antibiotics. But then his hand started getting worse.
“Then it started spreading up my thumb,” said Walton.
Walton went to Tampa General Hospital where doctors immediately operated on his arm. They told him if he had waited a few more hours to come to the hospital, he would have died. They thought he might lose his arm, but thankfully they were able to save it. They are still working to determine exactly what the bacteria is, but they know it's extremely rare.
“When I woke up, you talk about relief, is when you look over and see your thumb still sitting there,” said Walton.
Now he’s recovering at home. He’s still on antibiotics and he has a meeting with a surgeon on Tuesday. He’s in pain, but he’s feeling thankful for the community he loves.
“How does something like this happen to Mike? He’s been fishing for 40 plus years,” said Maria Kharitonova, the manager of Ozona Fish Camp.
Walton spends a lot of time there. She made a GoFundMe page to raise money for her friend to help with medical bills.
“The way that everyone’s come together, it just floors me. It makes you humble,” said Walton.
Along with his gratitude is a desire to share his story so other fishermen can take precautions. Walton suggests cleaning a cut the moment you get it while out on the water, and wearing gloves.
He’s now counting down the days until he can go fishing again. He’s hoping he’s able to by June 8, which is the Ozona Annual Inshore Fishing Tournament. Kharitonova says they will be raising money for Walton at the event.
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