Bethesda teen survives flesh-eating bacteria

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A local teen is lucky to be alive after a battle with flesh- eating bacteria, and now a special bracelet has been designed in her name.

Sixteen-year-old Alexis Hanford of Bethesda’s fight started when she cut her left leg while swimming in a freshwater lake in July.

“I was on a family vacation in California, and I went off of a rope swing and hit my leg on a tree log that was barely under the water. So when I let go of the rope swing it tore part of my tissue,” she says.

Doctors think the bacteria was in the water and made its way into her body through the cut. What followed was a fight for her life and then a battle to save her leg from amputation.

Hanford has had 18 surgeries so far, and early on she says surgeries came every other day.

Today the Walt Whitman High School junior is wheelchair-bound and can only get around on crutches if she doesn’t put any weight on her left leg.

“It’s an extremely long road to recovery and I’m not sure that I’m going to fully recover. I’m not sure what muscle I still have left. They cut out the top muscle on my leg, and that’s what flexes your foot. Right now I can’t move my foot, because of nerve damage. But I also am not sure how much I’m going to be able to move it once the nerves come back,” Hanford says.

Despite all of this, Hanford is grateful for the treatment she got at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C.

Several of Hanford’s friends, including Lily Blum, helped design a bracelet you can buy to raise money for Children’s.

“The little stone in the center is like the healing – represents Alexis and her healing. And then all the wooden beads around it represent the community and all of her friends who are supporting her,” says Blum.

The stones in the unisex stretch bracelet are available in several different colors.

“They’re $30, and those proceeds go directly toward Children’s Medical Center,” says Jaclyn Mason, owner of Charm Georgetown.

The shop on M Street brought the bracelet from concept to reality with the help of a designer in Los Angeles.

The bracelets can be bought at Charm Georgetown or purchased online through The Alexis Healing Project website.

“The fact that they came up with this for me to really give back to the hospital makes me feel amazing, and I just hope that everybody buys a bracelet and that we can make this a huge fundraiser,” Hanford says.

Just recently, Hanford was able to return to school and attend her homecoming dance.

She was named homecoming princess after her friends nominated her.

“It was my first normal day, and it was so nice to finally be back in kind of a social situation.”

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