WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A woman who came from a tour in Asia started having severe facial skin sores that caused her back pains and nausea; however the 15 or more doctors she had seen dismissed her case as severe acne.
- Tests have found that she had a high volume of a flesh-eating bacterium known as Klebsiella oxytoca.
- Treatment included nonstop antibiotics that killed all of the infection and preventing cutting off parts of her infected face.
After a media tour in Asia, Rachel Star Wither’s face skin started acting up. After medications didn’t work and bumps started breaking into open sores coupled with constant nausea, she knew something wasn’t quite right.
“I really thought it was just my acne getting worse, which is why I went to a dermatologist first,” Withers, 33, tells PEOPLE.
Assuming it was just normal acne, Wither’s dermatologist prescribed her Accutane, an intense retinoid acne treatment, but nothing happened. Although Withers told her doctor that her case is something different, her doctor didn’t listen to her. More medications were given by another doctor but nothing happened as well.
“I kept getting worse. I started breaking out into these weird hives, and I’ve never been allergic to anything in my entire life. And then this weird thing appeared on my chin. It was like a ping-pong-size sack that hurt,” said Withers.
After seeing about 15 to 20 doctors who didn’t believe that anything was wrong, Withers said that she was very frustrated because she knew something was wrong with her. “Some of the doctors were so condescending.”
One day in her boxing class, she discovered she can no longer lift her arm. She also started suffering from back pains.
Finally, she found a doctor who can help.
Swabs from the sores of Withers’ face were found to have high levels of the serious and flesh-eating bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca. As doctors struggled to search for the right antibiotic for the treatment, her skin hardened and facial muscles on the right side stopped working.
After a doctor sent her swab results to the infectious disease center in South Carolina, Withers was told to go to the emergency room for a nonstop antibiotic therapy.
“Originally they were going to take off parts of my face, but because it was by my eyes it would be too complicated,” related Withers. “While they were waiting to get that set up over the next two days, the sores on my face rotted over and grew new tissue, so they ended up not needing it.”
She also said that the antibiotics killed all of the bacterial infection.
“I can’t box anymore or do any of the high-energy stuff I used to. My tendons and spine took a beating. And I’ve got some wicked scars now,” said Withers as she started her recovery.
Although doctors think that Withers got the bacteria while in Asia, she wouldn’t rule out going back. “I would go again, absolutely,” she says. “It was rare. It shouldn’t have been possible.”