Scott Hinkle, left, and Sara Hebard, both of Pilot Rock, Oregon, lost their son, Liam Flanagan, 8, pictured in the cell phone photo, on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2018, after an eight-day battle with a flesh-eating bacteria. (E.J. Harris /East Oregonian via AP)
Like most 8-year-old boys, Liam Flanagan was used to getting a few scrapes and bruises here and there — nothing major.
So when the second-grader took a tumble off his bike on the driveway of his family’s farm in Pilot Rock, Ore., and suffered a large gash on his thigh he didn’t panic. His mom, Sara Hebard, rushed him to the emergency room, where he was given seven stitches.
“It wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a bad one. It just needed a few stitches is all, that’s it,” she told Fox 12. “And he was taking it like a trooper.”
The doctor slapped on a bandage, gave his mom some follow-up instructions and Flanagan was on his way home. Hebard assumed her little boy would be just fine.
But within days, Flanagan’s pain seemed to get worse.
Hebard gave him some Tylenol to try to ease the pain, but Flanagan continued to ache.
As a precaution, Hebard decided to take him back to the hospital, where she was shocked to discover flesh-eating bacteria had spread from Flanagan’s ankle to his armpit.
“There was a complication with the incision,” Hebard explained on a GoFundMe page to raise money for medical expenses. “He was rushed in for emergency surgery to remove some infected tissue.”
Doctors tried to remove as much of the bacteria as they could in his first surgery. Afterward, Flanagan was airlifted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland for more tests.
“I mean, how… how… that’s what I ask – how?” Hebard asked. “There’s just no answer.”
On Sunday, after undergoing several surgeries, Flanagan died. His death was a result of necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease that targets the soft tissue.
Hebard is now sharing her son’s story to warn parents about the rare condition.
“I would have to say for one, hug your children tight because you never know how quickly it goes, and then to pay attention to them and don’t just take for granted it could just be a simple accident,” she told Fox 12. “And to spread awareness because people don’t know. I had never even heard of this before.”