Roz Stone wasn't feeling well. The Bellmore mother was running a high fever and ached on her right side, so at first she suspected she had the flu.
But doctors at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola told her a radically different story - she'd been infected with a so-called flesh-eating bacteria and needed to undergo surgery immediately after she was admitted to the hospital on Nov. 11.
Stone, 45, was lucky to survive the rare infection, said the doctors who treated her for necrotizing fasciitis, a common bacterium that feasts on human flesh if it enters the bloodstream.
"She would have died if it was left untreated," said hospital surgeon Dr. David Shin Wednesday at a news conference at the hospital. Between 30 percent to 40 percent of people who contract the full-blown infection die from the disease, said Dr. John McNelis, vice chairman of the hospital's surgery department.
"Her blood pressure was low, and her heart rate was very fast," and she was in renal failure when she came to Winthrop, Shin said. "We brought her to the operating room immediately."
Stone first noticed a bug bite on her right hand on Nov. 7 while she was doing some paperwork. "It was a little mark on my finger," she said. By the next day, she had severe pain under her right armpit and a 103-degree fever.
The former nurse went to her regular doctor, who advised her to go immediately to Winthrop, where she was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Stone's husband, Keith, said that as she was going into surgery, doctors warned them her condition was serious and to say their last goodbyes.
"It was very stomach-churning, to say the least," Keith Stone said.
Everyday pathogens, some of which secrete toxins, cause the rare condition only under very special circumstances. Although some people who develop necrotizing fasciitis are healthy before infection, most have a compromised immune system, the result of a chronic health problem such as diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney disease.
Virtually every major hospital on Long Island, like those nationwide and around the world, have treated such cases.
While the exact cause of Stone's infection is still under investigation, doctors suspect the bacterium entered through the bug bite and spread. "There was nothing that made her more susceptible" to the infection, Shin said. "It's just bad luck."
While the infection is not usually contagious, Stone was quarantined. She endured five consecutive days of surgery to remove the infected tissue from her torso.
She is now on the mend at the hospital and hopes to go home in time for Christmas with her husband and three children. "It's a gift from somebody," she said of her recovery. "God. My doctors. It's a gift." With Delthia Ricks