AMELIA, Ohio – What started as a simple cut on his leg became the most painful experience of Danny Cox’s life.
"I had a cut on my leg from working," Cox said. “The next morning, I woke up, my leg (swelled) to a pretty good size."
The Amelia, Ohio man said he went swimming at East Fork State Park in Bethel after noticing his cut for the first time about three weeks ago and didn’t think much of it.
But doctors say that decision may have caused him to contract MRSA, also known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
MRSA is an infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
The infection generally starts as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils or spider bites. These can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining.
Doctors say the bacteria can also burrow deep into the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs.
Cox said he thought his leg would heal on its own after noticing the swelling and didn’t seek treatment.
But then it got worse.
"The next morning, it was swollen bigger and it was red,” he said. "The following morning, Sunday morning, it was twice as big, twice as red and had black spots all over it."
That’s when he finally checked himself into University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy,” Cox said. “It's so painful, it's unreal."
After doctors examined him, Cox said he learned just how close he was to losing his leg.
"He had a significant amount of dead tissue, that with a lot of surgery he would lose a lot of muscle and possibly his leg," said UC Health Assistant Medical Director Bryce Robinson.
Robinson said doctors couldn’t pinpoint exactly where Cox contracted MRSA.
But Cox is convinced he contracted it at East Fork Lake.
"I would close it down,” he said. It's just a hazard... Thank God I didn't lose my leg."
Eastern Kentucky University professor Jason Marion said public waters likely have a host of germs in them, including staph and MRSA.
His advice to avoid infections: Take a shower before and after you touch sand or go swimming.
"We should treat all our surface waters as if there are harmful organisms present," Marion said.
And most importantly, he said anyone with an open cut should stay out of sand and water.