Family of Michigan man who died of rare infection after Ian: He was the ‘life of the party’

James Hewitt traveled to Naples, Fla., two weeks ago to help a friend repair and clean up his property and boat after Hurricane Ian, not knowing it could put his life in danger.

After falling into the canal while working on a boat and scratching his leg, the wound became infected with a rare bacteria called Vibrio Vulnificus, which lives in warm salt water.

The bacteria entered his bloodstream, and the 54-year-old resident of Jenison, west of Grand Rapids, was hospitalized and died of the infection on Oct. 11. Hewitt’s two children and fiancee Leah Wenlet-Delano were with him. he said at the time that he died peacefully.

“Jim is always the kind of person who gives the clothes off his back, and he always jumps in to help everybody,” Wenlet-Delano said. “He jumped at the chance because he had seen, like everyone else, how devastating the storm was.”

Vibrio Vulnificus infections are very rare. According to the Florida Department of Health. However, one in five infections lead to death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Once it entered Hewitt’s bloodstream, the bacteria caused sepsis, or multiple organ failure, and dangerously low blood pressure despite treatment with antibiotics, Wenlet-Delano said.

Hewitt is at least the second Michigan state to lose a life as a result of Hurricane Ian, a devastating Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on Florida’s west coast. Craig Stephen Markgraf Jr., who splits his time between Florida and Michigan, drowned in the rising waters during the storm. Florida Board of Medical Examiners reported that 102 people died due to typhoon Jan on October 10, but many estimate the indirect death toll to be much higher.

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