Local pastor survives near-death experience with flesh-eating bacteria

SAN ANTONIO – It’s rare, but it happens — flesh-eating bacteria can be deadly. Pastor Doug Roberts knows that all too well after he nearly died in the summer of 2023 when he was exposed to the bacteria.

“I had this big bruise starting on my upper left thigh,” he said about an injury he sustained at a theme park. “I didn’t think much of it.”

A day later, he started having a high fever and thought it was the flu. But it wasn’t until the bruise began to get blisters that he realized it may be something more.

Roberts praised his emergency room doctor for not ignoring his symptoms.

“He insisted on running blood work on me. And, as soon as they ran that, I was on the operating table about two hours later, and they cut a large portion of my thigh out,” he said.

The infection continued to spread, and Roberts lost his left leg. His wife, Janet, said doctors told her to pray because his chances of survival were slim.

“I know you’re religious,” Janet said the doctor told her. “And I said, ‘Well, I have faith in God.’ And he said, ‘Well, you need to pray because this is as worse as it gets.”

Diabetes complicated Roberts’ infection.

After weeks in the ICU and months in rehab, Roberts was back on the pulpit at Calvary Temple Assembly of God Church.

“If it wasn’t for [Dr. Nicholas Gerken] — he and his assistant were amazing. And to this day, I’m grateful that they’re the doctors that we’re on call,” Janet said.

Janet urges anyone with health concerns to be strong advocates for themselves and their loved ones. Pastor Roberts said the near-death experience and life in a wheelchair have given him a renewed perspective.

“You never know what tomorrow holds. And so, we just treat each day like life is precious,” he said.

Infectious disease expert Duane Hospenthal with the Baptist Health System said flesh-eating bacteria come in different types of infections.

“When we use the term, we’re really saying that this is a rapidly advancing, life-threatening infection,” he explained.

They are uncommon and most often not life-threatening.

“It does have a tendency to go to the skin. And so we’ll see seeing blistering skin, especially around where you’ve nicked yourself or cut yourself,” Hospenthal explained.

The bacteria can be contracted in the ocean or brackish water and on surfaces.

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