By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina mother, suffering from a "flesh-eating" bacterial infection, has been upgraded to fair condition and held her month-old twins for the first time since her treatment began, hospital officials said on Thursday.
Lana Kuykendall, 36, was admitted to Greenville Memorial Hospital on May 11, just days after giving birth. She noticed a painful spot on her leg that ultimately was diagnosed as necrotizing fasciitis, a serious infection of the skin and soft tissues.
She has had almost 20 surgical procedures to contain and treat the infection, and is tentatively scheduled to have skin graft surgery on her legs, said hospital spokeswoman Sandy Dees.
Kuykendall also underwent extensive hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but has not had to have any limbs amputated, Dees said.
"She has improved tremendously over the last week," Kuykendall's husband, Darren, said in a statement on Thursday. "Although she is still in ICU, we believe she is on the road to recovery. She looks more and more like herself."
Lana Kuykendall, who previously had been listed in critical but stable condition, has become more alert and responsive and has communicated by blinking, pointing and mouthing words, family members said. On Wednesday, she held her twins, Abigail and Ian, for the first time since shortly after they were born.
"Lana grinned from ear to ear when she was holding them," said her brother, Brian Swaffer.
Kuykendall's infection was caused by Group A streptococcus, said Dr. Bill Kelly, epidemiologist for the Greenville Hospital System.
Another woman is being treated for necrotizing fasciitis at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Student Aimee Copeland, 24, developed the infection after cutting her leg on May 1 in an accident and fell into a river. She has had multiple amputations, including her leg at the hip and her hands.
Doctors blamed her infection on Aeromonos hydrophila bacteria, which are found in fresh or brackish water and may have entered the wound when she fell into the river.
(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Gevirtz)