Oregon Boy, 12, Has Part of Leg Removed After Catching Flesh-Eating Bacteria: 'I Just Thought It Was the Flu'

A 12-year-old Oregon boy has had part of his leg removed after catching "flesh-eating" bacteria, according to his family.

The child, identified only as Mason, first fell ill on Christmas Eve, and felt "a little bit worse" on Christmas day, his mother Terri Thomas wrote on a fundraising page.

A few days later, Mason's parents took him to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed him with influenza B and sent him home. But Mason's condition got worse, so his parents took him back to hospital. The child was struggling to get up and walk, his temperature had reached 104 F, and he was suffering from diarrhea, a cough, and sinus pressure. He "wasn't able to hold anything down for days," his mother said.

Mason was sent home to recover, but the family were back at the hospital the next day as the skin on his left leg had turned red.

The 12-year-old was diagnosed with a flesh-eating bacteria in his leg. Thomas did not say what caused the infection, however, flesh-eating bacteria is the term commonly used to describe a condition called necrotizing fasciitis. The bug doesn't actually eat the flesh, but rather releases toxins that damage tissue. Mason was also told he had cellulitis, an infection that spreads rapidly in the skin and underlying tissue that can cause shock, organ failure, and death if untreated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mason underwent several surgeries to drain fluids from his body, and cut infected tissue out of his leg "to try and save his life," his mother said.

Mason was fitted with a feeding tube as he is "still struggling on eating food and keeping it down. He hasn't been able to keep anything down since Christmas Eve," Thomas wrote on Thursday.

Thomas said her family are now wondering how they'll make rent and "finding it hard to put food on the table" as she has had to take time off work to be with her son.

"To top it off I still have to be a mother to 7 other kids that I can't forget about. My heart aches that I can't be in both places at once," his mother wrote.

Mason's aunt Paula Nealy told NBC affiliate KOBI5.com of her nephew's initial symptoms: "I just thought it was the flu, I mean, all the kids get the flu. I didn't think anything honestly."

Describing Mason's surgery, Nealy said: "The right side they cut out all the tissue. All the way to the bone. And to the left side they ended up cutting out all the tissue to the bone."

"We don't know if he's going to have a wheelchair," said Nealy. "Right at this point, he is. And a ramp, we might have to have figured out for the front. I mean, it's all different things you don't think you have to think about until you do."

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A stock image shows a child in a hospital bed.