A South Bay teen in the hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria -- which forced doctors to amputate one of his legs –- underwent a seventh surgery in an effort to remove the bacteria.
Giancarlo Gil, 14, has undergone seven surgeries at Rady Children's Hospital since falling ill nearly two weeks ago. The boy's right leg was amputated below the knee in order to prevent the spread of the bacteria.
The seventh surgery was performed Wednesday, and a family spokesman said doctors were unsure if Giancarlo was free of the bacteria.
The teen, a freshman at Chula Vista High School, remains hospitalized and faces the possibility of more surgery.
Giancarlo was playing baseball with the Chula Vista Green Sox on Sept. 19, when he complained of leg pain. The team was playing at a field near Silver Strand Elementary School in Coronado.
"We had two games, and the first game he was fine," friend Christopher Johnson said. "And the second game he was playing first [base], and he thought he strained his calf and he asked coach if he could sit out for the rest of the game. I sat next to him and asked him, 'Are you OK?' and he said, 'Yeah, it's just kind of an odd pain.' I said, 'Does it feel like you pulled it?' and he said, 'No, I don't really know.'"
According to Dr. John Bradley, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rady Children's Hospital, the boy's family took him to a doctor but was told his injury was considered mild at the time.
However, Bradley said the boy's pain increased, and included inflammation and swelling of the area. He was taken to the emergency room and then transported to Rady Children's Hospital's intensive care unit.
The infection rapidly spread, and Bradley said the boy's body could no longer fight it effectively.
Bradley said the boy's family has been "incredibly supportive but devastated" during the ordeal. The family has asked the public to not ignore any injury sustained by a child and to continue to donate blood. Giancarlo has had several blood transfusions since he was admitted.
There is no official word as to how the boy may have come into contact with the bacteria.
A GoFundMe page for Giancarlo has raised more than $15,533 as of Oct. 1. To learn how you can help, visit https://www.gofundme.com/r652cfec .
The family is also asking for donations to the San Diego Blood Bank in Giancarlo's name.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly and kills the body's soft tissue. Accurate diagnosis, prompt treatment with intravenously administered antibiotics and surgery are important to stopping the infection, which can become life-threatening in a very short amount of time.
The CDC said the occurrence of the disease is rare, even though it can be caused by several types of bacteria. Healthy people with strong immune systems can usually avoid the disease by practicing good hygiene and proper wound care.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, said a bacteria found on the skin can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, if wounds aren't cleansed.
"It's a rare condition," Wooten told City News Service. "Since 2010, we've had 124 cases of necrotizing fasciitis" in San Diego County.
Of those patients, only three have been under the age of 17, according to Wooten. She said many of the others had an underlying medical condition that weakened their immune system.
People who get any kind of injury that breaks the skin -- even as simple as a paper cut, blister or scrape -- should see a doctor if the wound gets warm and/or oozes, she said.