It turns out that when the tattoo artist warns you not to swim for a certain period of time after getting a brand-new piece of ink, you really ought to heed their advice. A 31-year-old man from Texas learned that lesson the tragic way after a Christian-themed tattoo on his leg wound up costing him his life after a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to British Medical Journal, the man – identified only as a Latino man living in Texas – decided on a sizable leg tattoo featuring a pair of praying hands and the message, “Jesus is my life.” To celebrate, he went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, a move that proved fatal.
“The number one thing we advise people when they get tattoos is we always tell them no sun, no swimming for at least 10 days,” Michelle Myles, a Manhattan-based tattoo artist, told the New York Daily News.
The man did not even wait a week before heading to the bacteria-laden waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Just three days later, he was admitted to the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas after suffering from pain in his legs and feet, redness around his tattoo, chills, and a fever. His condition quickly worsened.
“Within a few hours, things had progressed pretty quickly,” Dr. Nicholas Hendren told CNN. “There’s darkening skin changes, more bruising, more discoloration, what we call bullae – or mounds of fluid that were starting to collect in his legs – which, of course, is very alarming to anyone, as it was to us.”
Doctors determined that the man had been infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that causes an infection that is particularly dangerous to people with liver disease; the man had contracted chronic liver disease by drinking up to six 12-ounce beers each and every day. He was sedated for the last few weeks of his life until passing away from septic shock.
In all, the man spent two months in the hospital. Now, doctors and tattoo professionals alike are encouraging others to seek experienced tattoo artists and to exercise proper safety precautions.