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Tennessee man dies after contracting flesh-eating bacteria


A Tennessee man died last week after contracting Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria, while swimming in Florida, his daughter wrote on Facebook

On Wednesday, Cheryl Bennett Wiygul wrote a lengthy post detailing the moments leading up to her father's passing three days before. 

"This is so raw and personal to me that I did not want to post about it, but if I can help one person, then it is worth it," she wrote. "There is not enough education out there about the bacteria in the water. There needs to be signs posted at every beach, every city and state park, and every bayou stating that 'due to naturally occurring bacteria in the water people with open wounds or compromised immune systems should not enter'."

According to Wiygul, her father, Dave Bennett, and mother came to Okaloosa County to visit her from Memphis — several days after she had learned that 12-year-old girl Kylei Brown had contracted Vibrio vulnificus while vacationing in Destin. 

"The girl had a cut on her leg so I felt like it reinforced to me not to go in with a cut," Wiygul wrote of Brown. " I researched a little. When my parents got in town I was fanatical about Neosporin and liquid bandaid."

During the few days of her parents' visit, Wiygul said the three went out to the bay near Crab Island in Destin, visited the beach twice, swam in a couple of bayous and enjoyed her pool. On July 6, however, her father, who had been struggling with cancer and had a weakened immune system, suddenly began to feel sick. 

"About 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, 12 hours after we were in the water, he woke up with a fever, chills and some cramping," Wiygul wrote. "My parents had planned to head back to Memphis that morning anyway and my mom wanted him to be near his doctors to have him checked out."

Unfortunately, Bennett's health got worse on the way home, she said. 

"His legs started to hurt severely," his daughter explained. "He was becoming extremely uncomfortable. My Dad has been through a lot and he is not a complainer so he had to have been in a lot of pain to vocalize it."

After arriving at a hospital in Memphis, Bennett reportedly changed into a hospital gown, where his wife and medical staff noticed a "terribly swollen black spot on his back." 

"My mom sent me a picture of it and it felt like someone sucker punched me," Wiygul wrote. "I called and asked if it was actually black (because sometimes color is off in a photo) and she said it was black. I never saw a cut on his back and neither did she. We certainly hadn't seen this spot."

Though Wiygul's mother purportedly alerted hospital staff that Bennett may have contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection, they dismissed her. The black spot soon doubled in size, Wiygul said. 

"A new one was starting to pop up," she wrote. "His arms were becoming more blotchy by the minute and he was in a great deal of pain. Some of the nurses said they’d never seen anything like it."

As the hours went by, Bennett's condition deteriorated. 

"At 1 a.m. he became septic and they moved him into ICU," Wiygul said. "He coded shortly after and they had to bring him back. My dad had a lot of medical issues but heart was not one of them. They had to intubate him. He coded again. They said his organs were too damaged and his blood was too acidic to sustain life. He was gone by Sunday afternoon."

Lab results ultimately confirmed Wiygul's initial suspicions, she added. Bennett had, in fact, died of a bacterial infection. 

"I knew you shouldn't swim with an open wound but I didn't realize he shouldn't be in the water with his immune system," she wrote. "I feel like I should have known and that is something I will live with for the rest of my life. If I would have done more research I would have but I don't think the general public realizes it either."

CNN affiliate WCYB confirmed Bennett's passing on Friday. His death came just days after 77-year-old Lynn Fleming, who had retired in Florida, died under circumstances following a fall at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.