A Virginia man who contracted a flesh-eating bacteria was saved by an unlikely source: a neighbor who happened to be a U.S. Navy veteran.
Norfolk resident John Waldbaum didn’t know what was happening when his hand suddenly started turning black, he told WKTR-TV. At first, he assumed it was sun poisoning.
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In just one day, his entire arm became black, and he was so sick he could barely make it from the trailer in his front yard, where he does his jackknifing, to his home.
After Waldbaum collapsed on the couch, his wife, Maria, rushed to their next-door neighbor’s house for help.
Deborah Richard, a retired hospital corpsman for the U.S. Navy, said she knew something was gravely wrong as soon as she saw him. She took one look at him and said they were going to the emergency room “now,” Waldbaum said.
“I knew he had a really bad infection in his arm,” she said. “His coloring was gone. His arm was swollen and infected. He was barely breathing.”
Richard refused to leave Waldbaum’s side until he was seen by doctors, knowing how ill her neighbor was, and it’s a good thing she didn’t. His vitals had shut down and he was undergoing sepsis, and she told emergency room workers that there was no time to check him in.
Doctors rushed him to emergency surgery and had to amputate his arm to save his life. They determined that Waldbaum became exposed to the flesh-eating bacteria while fishing in North Carolina’s Outer Banks last month.
“They said if I hadn’t gotten to the hospital when I did, I would have had about a half an hour to live,” Waldbaum said.
Waldbaum said he is grateful to Richard for her help, calling her his “guardian angel.”
“I am so grateful, she’s an angel, I don’t know what I’d do without my husband,” his wife said.
While the Waldbaums are still looking for ways to thank Richard, the local news station gifted her a $300 reward for her live-saving actions.