Oceanside man survives flesh-eating bacteria

Spent 8 months in hospital before returning home

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - An Oceanside couple spoke with 10News Monday about the husband's fight to survive the mysterious flesh-eating bacteria.

In September, 47-year-old Tony Carpenter awoke to a painful rash on his leg and flu-like symptoms.

He was given antibiotics at a nearby clinic, which they say only made things worse.

"I still couldn't breathe…and my legs, I started getting blisters the size of rocks," Tony added.

His wife of 28 years rushed him to Tri-City Medical Center where he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis or the fast-moving, flesh-eating bacteria. 

"The doctor said, 'Sir, you don't know how lucky you are that your wife got you in here because by tomorrow, you would have been dead,'" said Rita Carpenter, Tony's wife.

She added, "If it wasn't for the staff and the Lord up above, he wouldn't be here."

Doctors say the antibiotics actually prevented them from pinpointing how he got the infection.

"You can get a mosquito bite, you can pick it up from an incision that is open, you can walk near a bush that has some kind of bacteria in it," said Rita. "If that gets into your bloodstream, that can cause it."

He was in the hospital for two weeks. Then, he was transferred to UC San Diego Medical Center where he spent the past eight months before returning home last month.

"I've had almost 30 skin grafts and it goes from this part of the leg top of here all the way down to this foot," said Tony as he showed 10News his skin grafts. He lost part of his left foot from the infection.

Tony is still not out of the woods just yet. He is on dialysis and needs a new kidney.

He says what hurts the most is that he cannot work. He has owned his own carpet cleaning business for nearly two decades and worked the night shift at a nearby Domino's, a place he says is like family to him.

"It's something that I have done for years and years and it hurts," he said. "I don't like sitting around."

But to Rita and their 14-year-old son, they are happy just to have him alive and to have him home.

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