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South Carolina mom with flesh-eating bacteria upgraded to fair condition

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Lana Kuykendall came down with necrotizing fasciitis just four days after giving birth to twins Ian and Abigail.
Lana Kuykendall came down with necrotizing fasciitis just four days after giving birth to twins Ian and Abigail.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lana Kuykendall has had a rare flesh-eating bacteria since May 11
  • "She has improved tremendously over the last week," her husband says
  • Kuykendall has had almost 20 surgical procedures to treat the necrotizing fasciitis
  • She gave birth to twins four days before being diagnosed and hospitaliized

(CNN) -- A South Carolina woman battling a rare flesh-eating bacteria infection has been upgraded to fair condition and is tentatively scheduled for skin-grafting surgery, her family said Thursday.

Lana Kuykendall has been in Greenville Memorial Hospital since she was admitted on May 11, four days after giving birth to twins, Ian and Abigail, in Atlanta.

"She has improved tremendously over the last week," said her husband, Darren Kuykendall. "Although she is still in ICU, we believe she is on the road to recovery."

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The constant IV drips of sedative and pain medicine have stopped and she is receiving them only as needed, Kuykendall said. "She looks more and more like herself."

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She has undergone almost 20 surgical procedures to treat and contain the spread of the necrotizing fasciitis, according to a statement from the hospital.

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"The treatment required aggressive surgical intervention, but not amputations," the statement said. "In addition to surgeries, she also underwent extensive hyperbaric oxygen therapy."

The recovery process will be slow, according to the hospital's epidemiologist. However, "We believe she has turned the corner," Dr. Bill Kelly said.

Kuykendall has had "longer periods of alertness and tries to respond to the people in the room and the conversations going on around her" over the last few days, the statement said. "She is able to communicate by blinking her eyes, raising her eyebrows, pointing and mouthing words."

The 1-month-old twins, a boy and a girl, visited their mother for the first time at the hospital on Wednesday, the statement said. They are being cared for by relatives.

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"Lana grinned from ear to ear when she was holding them," her husband said.

Kuykendall, a paramedic, went to the hospital after noticing a rapidly expanding bruise on her leg, her husband, a firefighter, said last month. She was diagnosed then with necrotizing fasciitis, according the hospital.

A number of bacteria, which are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections, can lead to the disease. When it gets into the bloodstream -- such as through a cut -- doctors typically move aggressively to excise even healthy tissue near the infection site in hopes of ensuring none of the dangerous bacteria remains.

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The disease attacks and destroys healthy tissue and is fatal about 20% of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, estimated that fewer than 250 such cases occur each year in the United States, though estimates are imprecise because doctors do not have to report the cases to health authorities.

CNN's Jennifer Bixler contributed to this report.

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