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Local woman dies from complications of flesh-eating bacteria

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For more than a year, Alana Alston battled flesh-eating bacteria that kept her in and out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For more than a year, Alana Alston battled flesh-eating bacteria that kept her in and out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

On Tuesday, Alston, 22, died at the medical center from complications from a surgical procedure, her mother, Angela Alston-Boyd said.

“She was inspiration to us all,” Alston-Boyd said. “She never complained. She worshipped and praised God.”

Alana Alston first noticed a small bump on her leg when she was at Myrtle Beach with her family on St. Patrick’s Day last year. Initially, she dismissed the small growth, thinking it was an ingrown hair.

When she and her family returned to Winston-Salem, the bump grew, turning into an open sore that caused her so much pain that she could barely walk. Her mother took her to the Wake Forest Baptist, where doctors diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis — flesh-eating bacteria – in late March 2012.

Necrotizing fasciitis starts when bacteria get inside a person’s body, usually through a cut or a scrape, according to the National Institutes of Health. The bacteria grow, release toxins that kill tissue, and then spread to the bloodstream where they spread, often rapidly. An infection can quickly become fatal.

Doctors treated Alston with antibiotics to try to kill the bacteria. They performed several surgeries, removing infected tissue, and grafting skin to replace what the bacteria had destroyed.

Alston’s most recent hospital stay lasted nearly four weeks, her mother said.

“Her smile would brighten up the day,” Alston-Boyd said. “She was an outgoing, bubbly person. She encouraged her friends. They are thankful that she was their friend.”

Alston daughter had attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and was pursuing a career in fashion design.

Nigel Alston, a columnist on Saturdays for the Journal, said that his niece was a sweet person.

“Alana had a great heart, and she was excited about life,” he said. “She had a lot of aspirations that she didn’t get a chance to follow up on.”

Alston-Boyd has fond memories of her daughter.

“I will miss her, her smile and her beautiful brown eyes,” Alston-Boyd said.

By John Hinton/Winston-Salem Journal


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