Meet the model who escaped death twice, from a shark attack and flesh eating virus

Meet the model who escaped death twice, from a shark attack and flesh eating virus

For most people, a shark attack while swimming would be a scary enough incident. But for Louisiana model Kelly Kohen, it was merely the prelude to an even more painful and frightening ordeal; which led her to escape death twice after she contracted a deadly, flesh-eating disease. Kohen, who hails from New Orleans, was fishing with a friend at the coast, when out of nowhere a baby blacktip shark,  darted out and aggressively took a large bite out of her foot.

The bite managed to sever a major nerve, and there was a good chance that Kelly might have bled to death there and then. She was rushed to hospital when the attack occurred, in May of 2016, but sadly for her, there was worse to come. Kelly managed to contract necrotising fasciitis as a result of dirty seawater entering the open wound, and as a result, she was soon in excruciating pain soon after being discharged from the hospital. At once point the virus was so vicious that doctors were certain that they might have to amputate Kelly's whole leg.

Louisiana model Kelly Kohen. Credit: Press Association

Commenting on the horrific ordeal, Kelly stated: "I went into the water – not particularly far – and felt an animal brush past my leg. It felt bigger than it should, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Next thing I knew, I felt some teeth clamp down on my left foot. I pulled my leg back and ran up the beach screaming, ‘Oh my god.’  Someone nearby told my friend and I that they’d heard there were blacktip sharks out there. I was really panicking then and trying so hard not to cry, but I was in agony. There was blood everywhere."

However, the flesh-eating virus that Kelly then contracted was arguably even worse. Her foot began to swell and the wound suddenly turned necrotic. "Eventually, I went back to hospital, where they told me they were going to admit me," Kelly stated, "I started crying then, as I’d never spent a night in hospital before. Initially, they believed the swelling was down to cellulitis, a type of bacterial skin infection. From speaking to other people who’ve survived NF it sounds as if this is a common misdiagnosis to make."

"They sliced away the tissue and also a spot on my ankle, where they found the infection had started to travel up my leg ... The infection had started spreading up my leg and they warned me that if I didn’t start responding to antibiotics soon, it could mean an amputation. I hoped and prayed and, thankfully, I kept my leg. I feel so lucky to be alive."

Kelly Kohen's wounded foot. Credit: Press Association

Thankfully, Kelly managed to pull through. Surgeons managed to strip away the dead flesh, and then repaired the damage with a graft from her umbilical tissue. Kelly struggled with PTSD as a result of her close brushes with death, but is now on medication and is exercising hard as part of the process of her physical recovery. She knows that the shark bite was just bad luck, but wants more people to be aware of necrotising fasciitis. So next time you take a dip in the water, bear in mind that you should be more worried about the bacteria living in it, instead of the fish with sharp teeth.