Doctors thought the skin condition on Rachel Star Wither’s face was acne, but it was actually an aggressive flesh-eating bacteria, she said in an interview with McClatchy.
Withers gained a following on YouTube for talking frankly about her life with schizophrenia. That channel took her on a speaking tour of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and when she returned, that’s when she started realizing something was different on her face, she said.
The Rock Hill, South Carolina woman began documenting what was happening on her Instagram account. Her face first broke out with splotchy redness, but then started to develop open sores and swelling. A series of photos and videos on the social media account show the progression of what happened over a year.
“I just kept getting told it was acne,” she said. “I’ve had acne. This was different.”
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“I definitely knew something was wrong with me,” she said, adding that she had to bring her father to an appointment with her since the doctors kept talking over her and wouldn’t believe that there was something more serious going on.
“I kept getting worse,” Withers told People. “I started breaking out into these weird hives, and I’ve never been allergic to anything in my entire life. And then this weird thing appeared on my chin. It was like a ping-pong-size sack that hurt.”
“So chunks of skin are coming off my face,” she said in one post in Instagram.
She did eventually find a doctor who could help. “They swabbed the sores on her face and found it had high levels of Klebsiella oxytoca, a serious and flesh-eating bacteria,” People magazine reports, but they weren’t able to figure out the right antibiotic for the infection.
“Originally they were going to take off parts of my face, but because it was by my eyes it would be too complicated,” Withers told the magazine. “While they were waiting to get that set up over the next two days, the sores on my face rotted over and grew new tissue, so they ended up not needing it. The antibiotics killed all of the infection.”
“I really should look like a 60s Batman villain,” she told McClatchy, missing half her face.
Now, she says, she’s still recovering but feeling much better. The bacteria got into her nervous system, causing pains that “felt like being stabbed by a hot needle.”
All the medications also caused problems. They “ate up my tendons,” she told McClatchy. Withers said she’s still healing from those injuries.