A Phoenix-area mother-of-three who was diagnosed with the flu is now battling against a flesh-eating disease. Special education teacher Christin Lipinski visited her medical clinic on January 11 after suffering from symptoms of the flu. She was also suffering from a stabbing pain in her side.
After being assessed, the woman was prescribed anti-viral medication for influenza. The next day, after Lipinski’s found herself in excruciating pain, so her husband took her to the ER at a local hospital. Doctors tested her again for flu, and it came back positive. Medical staff advised the woman to return home and rest, but the pain was still really bad.
“Once it came back that she had the flu, along with the hundred other people who had it there, they pretty much discharged us,” Lipinksi’s husband, Nathan, 36, told PEOPLE. “They didn’t even look at the area where the pain was coming from. Would it have made a difference? I don’t know.”
“It felt like a horrible dream that you can’t wake up from,” Nathan told USA Today.
When Lipinski’s pain worsened, the couple headed to the hospital. Doctors undertook a biopsy and discovered something horrifying: she was infected with a flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis. Within the hour, Lipinski underwent two surgeries to save her life.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” Nathan says of the delay in diagnosis. “When you’re with someone that you absolutely love, you just want to do whatever you can to care or comfort them.”
Lipinski has since undergone eight more surgeries, leading to a removal of 30 percent of her body’s soft tissue. She is now stable, but faces a long road to recovery.
“As of now, doctors say they won’t need to amputate, but it’s a fluid situation,” Nathan said. “The professionals are trying to give me as much good news as possible, and all I can do is stay positive and just hope for the best.”
“Christin is a friend to everyone. It is her goal in life to help kids who need the specialized attention she can provide,” said Nathan, who works in law enforcement. “She always there to help anyone she can, just the nicest woman I have ever met. She sounds like a storybook character… but that’s what she is to me.”
Nathan has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds needed to cover Christin’s medical costs. “We welcome all forms of support by your thoughts, prayers, donations, or help in spreading this message. Thank you and anything helps,” Nathan wrote on the page. The campaign has raised about $15,000 so far.
The latest update read:
“Christin has had a better day today in that her surgery went well this morning with only minimal tissue removal and debridement being required. No additional pockets of infection were found today and the underlying muscle tissue is looking healthy. She continues to make further gains, albeit small but we’ll take any good news we can get.”
Necrotizing fasciitis spreads rapidly, killing off healthy soft tissue. The only way to stop it is to cut out the diseased flesh. “You can’t just go in an make a little incision,” Arizona Burn Center Director Dr. Kevin Foster said, “and if you don’t get it the first time, often times you don’t have a second chance.”
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 600 to 1200 cases occur each year in the United States.