An Ocean Springs, Miss. man who spent a lot of his life in the Gulf of Mexico was killed by bacteria that attacked his body after spending a day in those very same waters.
Nick Duvernay, 38, died shortly after midnight Friday morning, four days after a Sunday boat trip with family and friends during the July 4 weekend.
According to his family, Duvernay suffered complications caused by vibrio vulnificus, also known as flesh-eating bacteria. Vibrio is a bacteria that lives in warm salt water and can infect humans through any cuts or abrasions in the skin. Eating raw or undercooked seafood can also lead to infection. It can cause death in people with weakened immune systems.
Duvernay’s sister, Sarah Duvernay Montgomery, said her brother had a long history of high blood pressure that he left untreated, leaving his organs weakened and vulnerable. She said he was an active diver, fisherman and spear fisherman.
“We all got to spend the day as a family and had a blast doing what he loved,” Montgomery told WLOX TV. “He got to fish and spend time with my son, who was just his world. I’m really thankful that that was one of his last days because it was a great day.”
She said Duvernay began showing signs of trouble that Sunday just after leaving the boat, but felt it was related to back problems he has suffered for years.
According to Montgomery, his condition deteriorated quickly. Monday, he began throwing up. Tuesday, he came down with a bad fever and was feeling dizzy. By Wednesday, his sister said he began having chest pains and could not breathe, so his fiancée rushed him to the hospital.
Montgomery said doctors as first thought her brother had congestive heart failure, because he had a lot of fluid on his belly and on his legs, but by Wednesday night he had been put in ICU with kidney failure. She said doctors drained some of the fluid from his stomach, but had to stop because his blood pressure was dropping too low.
“His leg kept swelling and his leg actually started to burst open, the back of his leg,” Montgomery told WLOX. “They realized then they were dealing with something much scarier than they thought at first.”
The family was told Duvernay had an infection, the skin-eating bacteria, in his blood, and the complications continued. His kidneys began shutting down.
On Thursday morning, doctors operated on Duvernay’s leg to remove the infection but his conditions continued to worsen. By 2 p.m., Montgomery said doctors advised the family that if anyone wanted to see Duvernay, they had better come immediately.
Duvernay began having liver failure, his respiratory system was shutting down and he was put on a ventilator. He died around midnight.
Dan McKinzey, a longtime New Orleans area outdoorsman, wrote on Facebook that Duvernay had also been active in the Southeast Louisiana diving community.
"Prayers go out to Nick and his family," McKinzey wrote. "Nick loved the ocean and was a former member of the Aqua Aces as well Hell Divers Spearfishing Club. May he rest in peace."
Montgomery hopes her brother’s death will serve as a warning to others.
“If you are going to go out there and be in the water, just make sure you don’t have any cuts on you, especially if you have a weaker immune system like Nick did from being sick,” she said. "If you get cut out there, go in immediately. Don't let this go and hope for the best, because within four days my brother was dead.”
Find out more information on vibrio vulnificus and what you should do if you have a wound exposed to warm salt water.