8-year-old boy dies from flesh-eating bacteria after falling off bike, family says

A family is raising awareness after an 8-year-old boy died after battling a flesh-eating bacteria infection that he apparently got when he cut his leg during a fall off his bicycle days earlier, according to multiple reports.

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Liam Flanagan, of Pilot Rock, Oregon, died Jan. 21 in Portland, KPTV reported.

Family members told the East Oregonian that Liam wrecked while he was riding a bicycle on his family's property. His handlebar sliced through his jeans, leaving him with a wound to his thigh. KPTV reported he had to get seven stitches at a hospital in Pendleton, but that his family thought the emergency room visit would mark the end of the incident.

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"It wasn't a big deal," Liam's mother, Sara Hebard, told KPTV. "It wasn't a bad one. It just needed a few stitches is all, that's it. And he was taking it like a trooper."

But, Hebard said, Liam started complaining of pain soon after the incident. Scott Hinkle, Liam's stepfather, told the East Oregonian he checked his wound to find it "purplish-red and gangrenous looking."

“We threw him in the rig and went like hell,” Hinkle said.

Family members took Liam back to the Pendleton hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. Doctors determined that Liam had necrotizing fasciitis, meaning his soft tissue was being attacked by flesh-eating bacteria, likely as a result of the bacteria getting into his wound from the soil during his bike crash, the East Oregonian reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis is a rare, quick-moving bacterial skin infection that kill's a person's soft tissue.

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Liam was taken by air to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland on Jan. 18, where surgeons continued to try to cut away infected tissue that spread from his arm to his armpit, according to KPTV and the East Oregonian.

"Almost his whole right side was gone," Heberd told the East Oregonian. "They kept cutting and hoping. Cutting and hoping."

Liam’s health continued to worsen, even as he tried to keep his family and friends upbeat.

"He was so strong and so brave," Hebard told the East Oregonian. "He told (his friends), 'It's just going to be a couple of days and I'll be coming home.'"

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He was taken to Randall Children’s Hospital on Jan. 21 to allow another team to treat him, but he died that night, the newspaper reported.

“He was a bright ray of sunshine,” Hebard told the newspaper. “He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was one of those people who would walk into a room and would draw everyone.”

The family shared its story in hopes of preventing similar tragedies for others.

"Hug your children tight because you never know how quickly it goes," Hebard told KPTV. "Pay attention to them and don't just take for granted (that) it could just be a simple accident. … I had never even heard of this before."

Family members started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Liam's medical expenses. By Tuesday, it had raised more than $43,000 of its $100,000 goal.

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