- Joy Braziel was hospitalized with a flesh-eating infection in March.
- The 53-year-old had an ingrown pubic hair that resulted in Fournier’s gangrene.
- She was hospitalized a second time for cellulitis, but she’s on the mend now.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Joy Braziel, 52, noticed an ingrown hair on the right side of her groin, she wasn’t concerned.
“We all get ingrown hairs,” the New Mexico woman told Insider. She took a few baths in an attempt to draw the hair out, and otherwise avoided “messing with” the pesky bump.
Days later, Braziel was hospitalized with a flesh-eating infection known as Fournier’s gangrene — or as she calls it, “the giant exploding crotch.”
Fournier’s gangrene is a type of necrotizing fasciitis that affects the genital area. The infection is rare, affecting an estimated 97 people a year. Elderly men are most commonly infected, but Braziel said she knows several other women who have had it.
What started as an ingrown hair resulted in multiple hospital stays; an extensive surgery to remove dead flesh; and an eight-inch wide, six-inch deep wound that hasn’t entirely healed yet.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to take another bath, because the thought of it — it’s scary,” Braziel said. “I don’t ever, ever want to go through something like this again.”
At first, she thought her 103-degree fever was a sign of COVID
The ingrown hair showed up in early March 2021, Braziel told Insider. That weekend, she felt tired, achy, and feverish.
When her fever climbed up to 103.6 degrees Fahrenheit, Braziel thought she must have COVID-19. But she tested negative on Monday, and on Tuesday, the pain in her groin started.
“I’ve never felt pain like this before — and I have chronic migraines, I’ve been run over by a car, and I gave birth to a child with no drugs,” Braziel said.
Braziel went to urgent care and was prescribed a common antibiotic to treat the infection. The next day, she finally got in to see her primary care doctor.
“She took one look at it and said, ‘You need to go to the ER.'”
Braziel needed extensive surgery and months of ‘excruciating’ wound care
At the emergency room, Braziel was pumped full of stronger antibiotics. She was soon transferred to a bigger hospital, where she immediately underwent six hours of surgery to remove the dead tissue and skin.
The pain medications made her groggy for a couple of days, but when Braziel regained awareness, she had an eight-inch long, six-inch deep slice cut out of her groin.
Her nurses placed a wound vac — a vacuum-sealed bandage used to promote healing — over the slice, which brought even more pain when it was time to change the dressing. It took almost two hours to change and properly seal the bandage, and afterwards, Braziel said she “wanted to curl up and die.”
She was hospitalized again for another infection
When Braziel got home from the hospital after a five-day stay, she was terrified the infection would come back. The flesh-eating infection stayed away, but she had an allergic reaction to medical tape that landed her back in the hospital a month later.
The blisters she got due to the reaction led to a cellulitis infection, which is more common than gangrene. However, it can be serious — Braziel’s organs began shutting down as her body fought off the infection.
She stayed in the hospital for another four days and has been recovering at home since then.
Braziel doesn’t need the wound vac anymore, and she’s able to shower again after a five-week hiatus. She still has painful blisters on her groin, but she says she’s made an effort to maintain a positive attitude even on her worst days.
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