Surgeons save teen from life-threatening infection

A minor scratch nearly cost Austin Campbell his leg—and his life.

Austin Campbell was working on his family’s farm when he got a superficial scratch on his right leg. The 16 year old thought nothing of it until about two weeks later when the tissue around the scab began to swell and drain.

His mother, Michelle, made an appointment with Austin’s pediatrician, who cleaned the wound and gave him antibiotics, but less than 24 hours later, Austin was deathly ill. He spiked a high fever and could barely move. A terrified Michelle rushed her son to the emergency department of Chatham Hospital.

Doctors at Chatham Hospital diagnosed Austin with septic shock and immediately transferred him to N.C. Children’s Hospital, where Bill Adamson, MD, chief of pediatric surgery, took over his case. Discovering that Austin’s were kidneys failing, Dr. Adamson wasted no time assembling a multi-specialty surgical team.

“The procedure to stop the spread of the bacteria is about as an aggressive surgical procedure that we do,” says Dr. Adamson.

Austin spent the first week following his initial surgery in the pediatric intensive care unit before being transferred to 6 Children’s, where he stayed for another three weeks. In all, he endured 11 surgeries, his care team ultimately saving his leg and his life.

“Those first couple weeks, it was really touch and go,” remembers Michelle. “You just don’t think something so minor could lead to a life and death situation like this.”

Austin was discharged on Nov. 18 and is undergoing therapy to strengthen atrophied muscles and regain his ability to walk.

“It’s not pretty to look at, but I’m happy to have it,” says Austin, gesturing to his leg.

“And, most importantly, we were able to save function,” adds Adamson. “With physical therapy, we expect Austin to be back to his old self in no time.”

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