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California man recovering from flesh-eating bacteria


Tom Cottini grew up in the Weed-McCloud-Dunsmuir, Calif. area his whole life. At 56 years old, he's now fighting a flesh-eating bacteria.

He and his family first noticed a small bump on his left forearm back on Jan. 12th. After four days, that bump grew to the size of a baseball. That's when Cottini decided to get it checked out by doctors at Mercy Medical Center in Mt. Shasta.

The doctors there determined the lump was a flesh-eating bacteria. After two surgeries, doctors there sent him to OHSU in Portland for further evaluation and surgeries.

"It's been very difficult just to watch him basically dying," Tonya McCallister, Cottini's daughter, said. "I mean, the doctor in Mt. Shasta actually had come out with the family to pray because she honestly didn't think he was going to live."

At OHSU, Cottini underwent three more surgeries. McCallister says doctors believe the infection was caused by Cottini constantly putting his weight on an armrest when sitting down in his favorite chair. McCallister says her father has trouble walking so uses a walker. Most days when he sits in his chair, he puts his weight on his left arm on the armrest. Doctors believe the constant weight on the same spot on his arm may have caused a cyst, according to McCallister. A small cut may have opened and infected the cyst, causing the bacteria to spread, McCallister says.

McCallister says doctors told the family the bacteria had spread throughout his body but had not done too much extensive internal damage. However, with the bacteria, antibiotics, and surgeries, McCallister says Cottini is now seeing a speech therapist to help with speaking - his words are now slurred.

McCallister says the past 11 days have been stressful emotionally, but have also put a financial strain on the family. McCallister's family has set up a GoFundMe to help with medical costs from surgeries and hospital stays. According to the GoFundMe page, the family is considering Ronald McDonald housing. If you would like to help the Cottini family, you can do son on the GoFundMe page.

Mt. Shasta doctors weren't sure Cottini would survive but McCallister says OHSU doctors say Cottini's recovery is going amazingly well. They just fear he may not survive the number of surgeries he has endured and will endure in the near future. Most of the future surgeries will be skin grafts to repair his arm.

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