Necrotizing Fasciitis and Kateri Tekakwitha

Necrotizing Fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection, one that can have severe consequences if not diagnosed early.

Untreated necrotizing fasciitis has a poor prognosis; death or severe morbidity (for example, limb loss) is the frequent outcome. Data on the number of cases per year are estimated between 500-1,000 per year in the U.S. Data in most other countries is incomplete, and some investigators think the actual U.S. case numbers may be much higher. Even with appropriate treatment, the mortality (death) rate can be as high as 25%.

Infection with MRSA and other multi-drug resistant organisms tends to have higher morbidity and mortality rates. Combined mortality and morbidity (for example, limb loss, scar formation, renal failure, and sepsis) for all cases of necrotizing fasciitis has been reported as 70%-80%.

A disease such as this is especially heartbreaking when it attacks children. Jake Finkbonner  of Ferndale, Wash., developed an infection in his face that almost killed him. For 2 months he was kept in a medically induced coma in order to treat him, besides that, doctors

surgically removed his damaged flesh each day. And every day for two weeks, they put the boy, who was then in kindergarten, in a hyperbaric chamber at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle to deliver oxygen to his body to help quell the infection’s progression. Jake spent nine weeks at Seattle Children’s hospital, where doctors prepared the family several times for what they believed to be the boy’s impending death.

That was back in 2006 and Jake is now a healthy 11 year old.

Jake bears still the scars from that fight for his survival.They are on his face and neck, across his scalp from ear to ear, and across his chest from shoulder to shoulder.He has undergone 29 surgeries, but the 11-year-old boy is otherwise healthy.

While he was ill, his parents, like many desperate family members, prayed for their son. In his case, they prayed to Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as Lily of the Mohawks, for their son’s health. When Jake recovered, the Vatican began an investigation. Recently they decided that the hard work and persistence of the medical team in Seattle wasn’t what cured Jake. They gave the credit to Kateri, and declared it a miracle.

 Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was four years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and transfigured her face. She was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle. Kateri became converted as a teenager. She was baptized at the age of twenty and incurred the great hostility of her tribe. Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it. Kateri went to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified. She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks”. Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980. Work is currently underway to have her Canonized by the Church. Hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St. Francis Xavier and Caughnawaga and at her birth place at Auriesville, New York. Pilgrimages at these sites continue today.

By the year 100, Christians were honouring their dead, particularly martyrs, and now the total of saints has risen to be approximately 10,000.  At the same time Kateri was canonized, the Pope recognized 6 others. These new saints represent Hawaii, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and the Philippines. It might be interesting to examine the ‘miracles’ associated with them, along with the miracles he has recognized for a number of others.

Canonization is a process that recognizes people who have been venerated by local people, sometimes for centuries. This provides a great PR boost for an organization that has gone through some major crises in the past couple of decades. It doesn’t in any way mitigate in any way the damage they have done to abuse victims or to gays and women and others as they fight against advances in human rights.

Back in the 1600s, medicine was rudimentary, and it was understandable that people would turn to a god to explain who lived and who died.  However, this is the 21st century, and rather than celebrate the life of a women who the Catholics of the 1600s turned into a pariah in her own community, we should be celebrating the skill and perseverance of the doctors in Seattle who are really responsible for saving the life of Jake Finkbonner.

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3 Responses to Necrotizing Fasciitis and Kateri Tekakwitha

  1. Pingback: Necrotising Fasciitis and Varicella | PEI Curmudgeon's Blog

  2. alaliba1958 says:

    I live near the Auriesville Shrine about 20 miles from here and there was an article written about this Kateri in this morning’s paper, ‘The Schenectady Gazette’ by Carl Strock. It’s his 2nd article about it. He took alot of flack (emails, calls and mail) about his 1st the other day. He pretty much wrote what you have wrote here. The RC has given credit to this dead saint rather than credit modern science and the doctors who really healed this boy. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age of enlightentment that people still cling to their superstitious beliefs that amount to no more than snake oil therapy.

  3. Pingback: » New Molecular Superglue Was Inspired By Flesh-Eating Bacteria

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