Newport man survives flesh-eating bacteria

Braden Leonard was riding his mountain bike at Ballard Park not far from his home here in Newport when he fell into some thorns.

What happened after that is incredible.

A rare infection claimed his right hand and nearly killed him.

"I consider myself pretty lucky. Some say you have a great attitude. Well, I had a 30 percent chance of survival when I started out at the hospital," Leonard told NBC 10.

Lucky says the man who now does not have a right hand.

It was amputated when a flesh eating bacteria invaded his body six weeks ago.

How did he get such an infection?

When he fell off his bike, a thorn punctured his palm. "The thorn was the insertion point for the bacteria," he would later learn.

That was June 4th.

The next afternoon, his hand started to swell and hurt.

He went to the hospital.

"If I had taken a nap rather than go in when I did, if I had waited till morning to see if it got any better, it probably would have killed me."

And it was still a close call.

Braden was in the hospital 10 days, in a medically induced coma about half that time.

Doctors amputated his hand to stop the potentially lethal bacteria as it threatened the rest of his body.

But now, you don't hear much negativity from Braden.

And he attributes his attitude in part to his job.

Braden is usually responding to emergencies, helping people in distress, as a lieutenant on the Johnston Fire Department rescue squad.

"I definitely think my background desensitized me to certain things and I've been able to process this a little more easily than someone without my background would."

He's now back to cycling after making some modifications to his bike.

And Braden wants to return to work, too, hoping a prosthetic can get him back to full duty as a Johnston firefighter.

"Especially after all the support and everything. It almost strengthened that bond, that brotherhood you hear about and everything. That support. I was crying at the hospital."

Friends are planning a fundraiser for Braden later this month.

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