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Wednesday, Mar 05 2014 12:59 PM

'First Look': Taft woman battles flesh-eating bacteria, receives award for bravery

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    Jennifer Sutherland talks about undergoing 17 surgeries to help battle a flesh-eating bacteria on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Jennifer Sutherland spent a year and a half in hospitals beds, wondering whether she would make it through each night alive. The Taft resident underwent 17 surgeries and was intubated for 42 days after she was diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria on her left leg, an infection known as necrotizing fasciitis.

"The disease spread through my body but I was still alive," Sutherland said Wednesday on "First Look with Scott Cox."

Her life changed after a visit to Seattle last year, when she felt ill, spiked a fever and her leg swelled up. Within 24 hours, she began hallucinating and went into shock.

Doctors removed pieces of her leg to stop the infection from spreading, she said.

Sutherland said doctors don't know exactly where she might have picked up the bacteria, especially because she did not have an open wound where bacteria could have entered her leg. One theory Sutherland has is that bacteria could have been living in a pair of hand-me-down boots she purchased before her leg swelled up.

Through all the trauma, Sutherland kept a positive attitude, and was able to leave the hospital five weeks ago.

"I never blamed anybody," she said. "I had too much to do, like take care of my twin 6-year-old boys."

Being in a hospital for so long, Sutherland said she developed close relationships with doctors and nurses and that's how they came to recognize her perseverance.

Keck Hospital of USC, where she spent most of her time, recognized Sutherland for her bravery. She was also recognized at another hospital.

"People can make it through any difficult time," Sutherland said.

She continues her recovery in Kern County.

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