ANDERSON — Patrick Baker, 50, purchased a batch of oysters and brought them home to enjoy. Three days later, he was sent to the emergency room and has been hospitalized for almost a month.

Contracting a flesh-eating disease from consuming his raw oysters, he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis caused by a bacteria known as Vibrio vulnificus.

“Patrick’s doctors told Mikka (Baker’s wife) that all of them that have come in have never seen it, and that this is something that they’ve only read about in their medical books,” Baker’s mother-in-law, Debbie Huffman, said.

According to the UK National Health Service, necrotizing fasciitis, a medical emergency, is a bacterial infection that affects muscle and organs beneath the skin.

Huffman said it was a miracle that her son-in-law didn’t die from his condition.

Community North’s media relations team was unable to connect The Herald Bulletin to Baker’s provided doctors.

His rare condition comes from saltwater exposure. As an Indiana resident, he is battling a life-or-death illness that is uncommon in the Midwest.

“The doctor came in and asked, ‘Have you been to an ocean recently?’ — and that’s when I knew,” Mikka Baker said.

Baker has undergone emergency surgeries in both legs to clear out the infection he contracted from the raw oysters. He was on life support for three weeks, and was weaned off it August 2.

“If the infection had spread up to his abdomen, he would have died,” Huffman said. “He’ll go back into surgery as time goes on, and they’ll debris his dead skin.”

One to two days after ingesting the store-bought oysters, Baker encountered flu-like symptoms. His infection became more noticeable in his legs, where he developed purple blisters and experienced a growing pain.

Mikka Baker came home to find her husband in alarming condition and sent him to Anderson Community North Hospital.

“He’s the kind of person to shake it off, but I told him ‘No, I’m taking you to the hospital,’” she said.

With a temperature spiked to 104 degrees, Baker stayed in the Anderson hospital for two days until he had to be transferred in a lifeline bus to Indianapolis, where he is receiving intensive care.

Baker developed ICU delirium, a temporary state of confusion or behavioral changes. It took him two weeks to regain any awareness of what happened to his body.

The family said Baker’s doctors are hopeful that he will have a good chance of avoiding amputation of both legs at his current recovery rate.

“I think he’s heading in the right direction now,” Baker’s lifelong friend Shawn Watson said. “We’re taking baby steps.”

For Baker’s 50th birthday, Watson and another close friend, Jason Emswiller, organized a Poker Run event with consideration toward his love for bikes. Their goal was to spread awareness of Patrick’s rare condition.

“People just wouldn’t think in Indiana that this could happen to them, and there you go, it can happen,” Watson said. “The big thing is, a lot of people don’t know about crawfish and oysters that you eat.

“He didn’t know how to determine whether it was good or bad because he had never had any.”

The family collected over $12,000 in donations during the event in support of Baker. Huffman said the turnout of community members and friends was heartwarming for the family.

“Not only is it a long road for him, it’s a long road for us, too,” Huffman said. “From where we first started to where we didn’t think he was going to pull through, we’re thrilled now.”

Patrick remains in Indianapolis undergoing rehabilitation after moving out of the intensive care unit. Doctors informed his family that he will have to undergo a skin graft and various procedures.

The State Board of Health has been in contact with the family for further investigation of the raw oysters Patrick purchased.

“He told me no more raw oysters,” Huffman said with a laugh.

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