Out for 98: Frank Hill returns home

Thursday, September 07, 2023
Out for 98: Frank Hill returns home
“I didn’t make it to the 100,” joked patient Frank Hill as he was discharged from hospital last week.

The 71-year-old cricket lover and farmer from Derrinal clocked up 98 days in care after becoming ill from necrotising fasciitis – also known as the flesh-eating disease.

A rare bacterial infection, necrotising fasciitis attacks the healthy tissue under the skin. Registered Nurse Kylie Scilini said the cause can be hard to pinpoint.

“We don’t see necrotising fasciitis often. I’ve been nursing for 10 years and I’ve only seen it twice. Frank was probably the worst I’ve seen,” she said.

Frank had no symptoms before suddenly becoming unwell and collapsing at home. He was taken to Heathcote Health, before being transferred to Bendigo Health ICU.

“I took the attitude that the fasciitis almost killed me. They brought me back to life with antibiotics and heart medication,” he said.

After initial treatment, Frank was transferred back to Heathcote. The infection would soon come back however resulting in a large wound, with Frank coming back to Bendigo for further treatment. Frank underwent vacuum assisted closure treatment, enabling the skin to grow back on the wound. Two weeks ago he received a split skin graft and is on the road to making a full recovery.

“In Frank’s case the doctors were concerned with how sick he was. He became septic quite quickly and that’s why they were worried that he may lose his leg,” Kylie said.

“Luckily they were able to treat it with the antibiotics and the procedures to cut away the unhealthy flesh. That’s why he’s been here for so long, it’s so delicate. We needed to make sure the leg had properly healed before he went home.”

What was awaiting Frank when he went home? Connemara ponies and a new border collie puppy, Milo. Though Milo will be staying elsewhere for the time being, Frank is looking forward to having a new companion join him on the farm soon.

Frank said he was sad to leave the staff too, who he’d come to think of as a second family over the last few months.

“Dr Rizwan and Dr Cameron, all of the nurses, were extremely vigilant, they always restored my faith in the health system. That’s important for a patient, to believe they’re going to be cured,” he said.

“We’ve loved having Frank on the orthopaedic ward. I got along with Frank from the start because I grew up on a farm, we always spoke about his horses and dogs,” Kylie said. "You always got a smile out of him, he was such a gem to have around."