Rob Erke was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease on July 7. Pictured here with his wife, Eilish, and son, Bronson, he hopes his story will help others become more aware of the fatal bacteria infection. Submitted photo

Rob Erke was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease on July 7. Pictured here with his wife, Eilish, and son, Bronson, he hopes his story will help others become more aware of the fatal bacteria infection. Submitted photo

B.C. man battles mysterious flesh-eating disease

Rod Erke wants others to be aware of the early warning signs of the deadly disease

A Langley man battling flesh-eating disease is hoping his story will help others avoid the devastation his family is now facing, after doctors misdiagnosed his condition in its early stages.

Rob Erke was working at his family’s small mobile trailer repair company on Canada Day when he noticed a pain in his shoulder. Upon inspection, he found a small, swollen lump, and went to the hospital.

The doctor tested to see if there was any kind of infection, and determined it was just an irritation. Rob was given some anti inflammatory and pain medications and sent home.

By Wednesday, he began feeling sick and the little lump grew into a big, painful spot. He went to the hospital again on Thursday, but the wait time was so long, he decided to visit his family doctor the next day instead.

His doctor told him it was a bacterial infection, and gave him some antibiotics and requisitions to get blood work and X-rays done.

He was sent home again.

On Saturday morning, July 7, Rob woke up to a fever of 39.7 degrees and a huge, purple coloured mass on his shoulder. His wife, Eilish, sat by his side and tried to bring down his temperature until he fell asleep. She then called an ambulance.

“It turned out that it was quite bad and that his blood was absolutely septic, and they said if I hadn’t brought him in right away it could have killed him,” Eilish told the Langley Times.

“So then they sent him to Royal Columbian Hospital and said it was some ‘fleshitis,’ like a flesh-eating disease bacteria.”

Later that day Rob went in for surgery, followed by another surgery on Sunday to remove a large portion of his shoulder. He was supposed to go for a third surgery the next day, but doctors decided to hold off.

“They put some kind of packing in him that’s got a pump that draws all the stuff out because they can’t seem to get a hold of the infection that’s in his blood still,” Eilish said.

“And I was told that this bacteria is quite nasty, it likes to attach itself to organs and joints. And right now he’s having tests done just to keep an eye on his heart, and they’re concerned about his left knee. It’s swelled and it’s actually swelled worse since Saturday, so just checking to see if it’s spread.”

According to HealthLink BC, flesh-eating disease, formally known as necrotizing fasciitis, is a severe, quickly spreading bacterial infection in the tissue or flesh surrounding muscles. About two or three out of every 1 million people in B.C. contract the disease each year, and it can be fatal.

It is caused by many different bacteria, particularly ‘A streptococcus,’ the same bacteria that causes strep throat.

A streptococcus can be found on the skin, and in the nose and throat of healthy people, but most people do not get sick from it. Just how it causes flesh-eating disease in some is not fully understood, the HealthLink BC website states.

“Since this severe form of streptococcal infection can progress so rapidly, the best approach is to get medical attention as soon as symptoms occur. Remember, an important clue to this disease is very severe pain at the site of a wound,” the website says.

“Always take good care of minor cuts to reduce the chance of the tissues under the skin getting infected. If you have a small cut or wound, wash it well in warm soapy water, and keep it clean and dry with a bandage.”

If Rob’s infection is fully treated, he still faces plastic surgery in the future to repair the large hole now in his shoulder.

Eilish also recently broke her arm, so neither she, nor her husband, are able to run their labour-involved company at this time. They’ve been relying on friends and family to help drive her to the hospital, and to watch their 16-year-old son, Bronson, who has epilepsy and cannot be left alone.

“It’s been a bit of a nightmare,” Eilish said.

The family wants to get the word out about their situation to raise awareness of flesh-eating disease and its early warning signs, as they had never heard of it until Rob was diagnosed.

“We didn’t realize how common it actually is, and that anyone can get it,” Eilish said. “It doesn’t even have to be a scratch. Like he didn’t have a scratch, a bite or nothing. They still have no idea how, or why, he got it. And he’s a big guy who works outside, he doesn’t even really get sick often. So for him to be taken out that quickly like that is very scary.”

Both Eilish and Rob are encouraging people to listen to their bodies when symptoms begin.

“He wants people to be aware that — not to frighten people — but especially fellas, they literally don’t go in until they are literally dying. And I know it’s a running joke for fellas, but it’s true,” Eilish said.

“He didn’t really pay attention to his own symptoms, he just sort of put it off, and it could have killed him.”

Eilish and Rob’s friends, David and Norma Chan, have also set up a GoFundMe page — without the couple’s knowledge — to help with finances during this ordeal.

“I just wanted to thank everybody — people who have stepped up to help, to show awareness,” Eilish said.

“The people in the hospital have been great. Friends, family, everybody. And I just want people to be aware. Listen to your body. Hug and kiss your loved ones. That’s about it, really.”

For more information on the ‘Help Rob With Flesh Eating Disease’ GoFundMe, click here.



miranda@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Montrose resident Kimba McLean has hiked Antenna Trail every day since October and counting. Photo: Jim Bailey
Montrose man makes daily trek up Antenna Trail

Kimba McLean put on more than 800-km hiking Antenna Trail every day for the past six months

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

First-year Selkirk College student Terra-Mae Box is one of many talented writers who will read their work at the Black Bear Review’s annual (virtual) launch on April 22. Photo: Submitted
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Grade 2 and 3 classes from a North Okanagan elementary took over Letters page of this Black Press newspaper

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

Most Read