Historian cuts foot, loses leg

2009-03-23 00:00

Historian and author R.W. Johnson (65) had to have his left lower leg amputated last Tuesday after he contracted a severe bacterial infection.

Johnson was admitted to a private hospital in Margate on Friday, March 13, after a cut on his left middle toe became inflamed. He cut his foot on a rock two days before while swimming in a lagoon at the Mpenjati Nature Reserve near Margate.

According to Johnson’s surgeon, Dr Daniël Otto, his patient contracted a water-related bacterial infection.

“An aeromonas species ended up in his blood, causing a soft-tissue infection, which spread rapidly,” Otto said yesterday.

However, he said it is “abnormal” for aeromonas species to be associated with this soft-tissue infection, which makes it difficult to say at this early stage why the bacterium caused such a violent reaction.

Otto said Johnson was brought to the hospital in septic shock on the Friday. By that time his lower leg was “actually already dead” and he was suffering from kidney failure.

His left lower leg was amputated at the knee last Tuesday.

When approached yesterday, Mpenjati Nature Reserve personnel were deeply shocked at the turn of events. Children apparently swim regularly in the lagoon.

Cedric Coetzee, coastal manager of the provincial parks authority Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said yesterday they have never before received complaints of polluted water there.

“The municipalities test the water about once a month and there have been no indications of pollution at Mpenjati up to now. We will gladly investigate the matter if the [Johnson] family approaches us,” said Coetzee.

Johnson’s wife, the academic and author Irina Filatova, would not comment on her husband’s condition yesterday, but, according to Otto, his condition has been stabilised.

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