Fit Aussie veteran contracts 'aggressive' flesh-eating bacteria

The 'active' Queensland dad woke up feeling sick on Sunday morning and 'quickly deteriorated'.

WARNING - CONFRONTING IMAGES: A “fit and healthy” father of four came dangerously close to losing his life this week after a simple ingrown hair ignited an “aggressive” and deadly flesh-eating bacterial infection.

Shawn Dell, from the Brisbane suburb of North Lakes, woke up feeling sick on Sunday morning before deteriorating “very quickly”, friend Anna Richards said in a fundraiser created to support his recovery.

Concerned about his vital signs, the “active” military veteran’s worried wife Kat Dell called for an ambulance and he was rushed to the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, “placed into ICU and sedated immediately”.

Shawn Dell, who is battling a flesh-eating bacteria, and his wife Kat dressed in white, standing in a restaurant.
Shawn Dell and his wife Kat before the father of four was struck down by a flesh-eating bacterial infection. Source: GoFundMe

There doctors revealed Mr Dell had contacted necrotising fasciitis — a rapidly spreading bacterial infection that affects the tissue under the skin and results in the death of parts of the body’s soft tissue. It can lead to sepsis, shock, organ failure and death.

“Cases are rare with an incidence of 1 per 100,000,” Ms Richards said, adding that the dad had also suffered a heart attack at the couple’s home without either him or his wife aware. A blood clot in his artery has since been “cleared out”.

In a text message to Yahoo News Australia on Friday, Kat said the entire ordeal has been “so overwhelming” but that she is trying to stay strong for her husband and their young children.

Shawn and Kat Dell with their four young children in christmas pjs.
Shawn and Kat have four young children. Source: GoFundMe

Deadly infection began with ingrown hair

Ms Richards said the infection “started on Shawn’s neck from an ingrown hair”. “From picking it, bacteria has entered into his body and this has released toxins into his bloodstream, causing Shawn to become extremely sick within a matter of hours,” she said.

In the past six days, the he has undergone three surgeries to remove the infected tissue — of which there was an “extreme amount”.

“Shawn has had his skin removed from his collarbone to his neck, under the jaw, to the opposite collarbone and to his chest plate, this also included a bit of muscle from his neck,” the friend added.

A leg with Necrotising fasciitis.
Necrotising fasciitis (file image) is a rapidly spreading bacterial infection that results in the death of parts of the body’s soft tissue. Source: ABC/Wikimedia Commons

Sick dad a 'gentle giant'

The veteran, who served in Afghanistan, remains in hospital with his wife by his side. Friends and family are rallying around them to help raise money while they struggle without an income.

“Any money raised will go directly to Kat to help keep the house running whilst the focus is on Shawn and his recovery,” Ms Richards wrote on the GoFundMe.

“Shawn is a caring, friendly, selfless, gentle giant that would do absolutely anything for his family and friends. Shawn never asks for favours to be returned and never expects any more than a thank you when he helps others.”

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