Marysville toddler hospitalized with flesh-eating bacteria

SEATTLE -- A 2-year-old Marysville girl has been hospitalized in Seattle after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria, her parents say.

Zoey Chalk was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis on May 25, although her father says it started out like any other infection a child might develop.

"I noticed a small little rash -- the smallest, normal thing that a kid would have on the back of her ankle," said Zoey's father, Bryan. "Within 3-4 hours, it had overtaken her whole leg. It just spread up her whole leg and it was just beet, bright red."

Zoey's parents took her to a nearby hospital, where doctors initially thought it was cellulitis. When her leg quickly got worse, Zoey was rushed to Seattle Children's Hospital.

"(The doctors are) saying, 'I want to prepare you for the worst and hope for the best, but she could die from this. She could lose her leg from this,' " said Zoey's mother, Valorie. "When I heard the word, 'die,' I just - I died inside. I was in shock. I'm still in shock that we almost lost our girl."

Over the next week, Zoey underwent six surgeries, had a feeding tube attached, and was periodically placed in isolation. Doctors told Zoey's parents they got ahead of the bacteria, but they still aren't sure how she got it in the first place.

"(The doctors) basically said this could happen to anyone at any time. That's the scariest part to us. I didn't even know this was a real thing," Byran said. "I want parents to know: When your kid gets a small little scrape, you don't immediately need to hit the panic button, but keep an eye on it because if we hadn't kept an eye on it, we wouldn't have our daughter."

The Centers for Disease Control says necrotizing fasciitis is extremely rare and if not caught early can be deadly. The disease kills about 1,000 people nationwide each year.

Zoey will likely need a skin graft and physical therapy to learn how to walk again. On top of this, her father survived cancer in 2011 and was hit by a car last year. Her mother also survived a rollover crash around the same time.

Her family is chronicling their ordeal in a blog so people can track Zoey's progress.

"It's probably going to be a long road to recovery, but they got the infection out and that's the biggest thing," Valorie said. "We caught it fast enough."