BATON ROUGE - A man from East Baton Rouge hospitalized after getting sick from potential bacteria in the water off the coast of Mississippi is breathing on his own, family members told WBRZ Thursday morning.
WBRZ.com was first to report about Dick Empson and the flesh-eating bacteria illness that had him near death Wednesday. Then, his family said they were praying the rosary and hoping for a miracle after Empson, in his 60's, became infected while vacationing near Gulfport over the weekend. Family members created an internet fundraising campaign for Empson after he was admitted to the hospital Monday. Empson's niece, Elizabeth Daggett, told WBRZ in a phone conversation Empson started feeling ill after being on the beach Sunday night. By Monday, he was hospitalized and an IV drip wasn't helping his condition.
Thursday was the biggest change in his condition; family members said he had been removed from the ventilator. He was tired, but hopeful, they said.
Empson, who is an official with the Sherwood Forest Citizens' Association, had to have his leg amputated less than 24-hours after being admitted to the hospital.
"Uncle Dick is an amazingly strong man who is a cancer survivor twice! We know he has the heart of a warrior, a true fighter," Daggett and other family members wrote on the You Caring page.
Family members said Empson started responding to touch and sounds Wednesday night. He was even able to hold a rosary as people prayed by his bedside. People across the world are praying for Empson, family members said.
Empson had flu-like symptoms Sunday and was too ill to drive home by Monday so family vacationing with him took him to the ER. The infection is believed to have started around a purple spot on his leg, Daggett said, that was very painful. Doctors suspected it was flesh-eating bacteria and said amputating the leg was the only chance at survival.
Doctors told family members the survival rate is about 20 to 30% though the developments Thursday morning were promising.
"He shook his head," Daggett said with hope Wednesday afternoon and other family members said Empson was able to squeeze hands. No one felt comfortable with doing a television interview, however. Family members said the Empsons are very private.
Empson had been in a medically-induced coma. It's unclear how much his medical care will cost. Family members remain with him in Mississippi, staying in hotel rooms until he is well-enough to return to Baton Rouge.
> Read about flesh-eating bacteria from the CDC HERE.
> Before you vacation, get beach information HERE.
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