Gary Evans never went for a swim during a trip with his wife to Magnolia Beach in Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico, but a day spent crabbing in the waters was enough to contract a flesh-eating bacteria that caused his death four days later.
The 56-year-old father of six went crabbing with his family on Fourth of July, and within two days he was unable to walk. Doctors diagnosed him with vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria that is present in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and it progressed into the deadly necrotizing fasciitis.
Evan’s wife, Debbie Mattox, 60, was left questioning how he contracted the bacteria, which can enter the body through small scrapes and cuts.
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“His hat fell off into the water a couple of times, and he picked it up, and you just laugh about it, and he put it back on his head, was that it?” Mattix said in an interview with KHOU. “Was that the entryway then? I don’t know. Could it have been when he pulled the crab traps out of the water and the breeze, some of the water sprinkled on him then? But to say we floated out in the water, no. We never got in the water.”
Mattix said that once Evans was infected, the bacteria moved swiftly.
“He was in his element there … around everything he loved most – his friends, his family, his crabbing on the water,” she told the Victoria Advocate. “But on Saturday morning, he couldn’t walk. That is how quick it hit.”
Mattix said that Evan’s feet and legs were extremely swollen and they took him from the hospital, but they didn’t expect it to be anything severe.
“We got there and they let me know he wasn’t going home; he was going straight into ICU,” she said. “Doctors started treating him for Vibrio, but it wasn’t confirmed until the next day; that is when they said it started manifesting itself.”
The doctors gave Evans antibiotics, but on Sunday the swelling in his legs turned into pus-filled blisters. He went into surgery, and doctors told Mattix that her husband only had 72 hours left to live.
“They did everything they could do,” she said. “He was very, very sick, and it ended up beating him. It spread into his liver, his kidneys and he was on a respirator. It also got into his blood system and started collapsing his veins.”
Evans died on Monday, July 8, and Mattix started a GoFundMe to raise money for his funeral. She said that Evans was kind and an important part of their community in Victoria, Texas, about 40 miles from the beach, where he helped with the Hurricane Harvey cleanup.
“Gary was out there with his chainsaw, all over the neighborhood, just doing,” she said. “He was always doing something.”
She hopes that sharing Evans’ story will serve as a warning for people who don’t understand the dangers.
“This bacteria is a lot worse than people really think it is,” Mattix said. “It is not a bacteria that is easily contained; it comes in with vengeance, and it is relentless, just, like, destroying everything in its path.”
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