Man with flesh-eating infection undergoes 4-hour surgery

Doctors say chance of survival has increased

DENVER - A Delta man suffering from a rare and life-threatening infection underwent four hours of surgery Wednesday.

Rick Graham became sick this past weekend and went to the hospital in Delta. He was transferred to a hospital in Grand Junction before coming to Denver for treatment.

Doctors have removed much of the infection through surgery, cutting into the entire right side of his body, said his son-in-law Robert Lightner.

Doctors say they may be able to save his feet, but they may have to amputate his toes.

Graham is looking at a month-and-a-half in the intensive care unit at the hospital, Lightner said. Doctors will likely have to give him skin grafts and plastic surgery.

The family is looking to set up a fund to help pay for their medical costs.

Graham's daughter, Tabatha Lightner,  said the most difficult part of the ordeal is not knowing what caused it.

"We really don't know what to make of it," she said. "You're sitting there and all you want to hear is an answer. Why is this happening? What caused it?"

She said she doesn't think it was a spider bite or a dirt bike accident that occurred about a month ago.

"His left arm was the one injured, but they had to amputate his right arm," she said. "I don't know where he would get that kind of infection where it would literally eat your flesh and everything inside."

However, doctors suspect the infection came from a brown recluse spider or Strep A.

Graham is the father of eight children.

"We're trying to make it to Denver so we can be there with Dad," she said. "But not all of us can afford to."

She said family members hope and pray that doctors at University of Colorado Hospital can save Graham's life. He is currently in stable condition in ICU.

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