Woman’s plea for brother after flesh-eating disease left him with 30% survival odds


Tanja Willis from Lancashire says her brother Colin Graw was struck down with a rare, severe infection as doctors in Costa Rica scrambled to save him

Colin in hospital
A woman from Parbold is pleading for help after her younger brother has been left fighting for his life miles away from home.

A woman has said she’s been left feeling “helpless” after her brother was struck down with a flesh-eating disease while hundreds of miles way in Costa Rica.

Tanja Willis, 49, from Lancashire discovered her brother Colin Graw, 47, had been hospitalized in Costa Rica for days fighting off a flesh eating disease, Lancs Live reports.

Doctors realized Colin was suffering from necrotising fasciitis, a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs.

The infection was so bad that Colin had also contracted Fournier’s Gangrene, a type of necrotizing fasciitis that affects the scrotum, penis or perineum.

Colin Graw 47, went to Costa Rica after receiving an investment opportunity



Colin’s sister said the ordeal was so severe that he only had 30% chance of survival



Surgeons were forced to remove the infected tissues via a long, intricate process until they could see healthy tissue.

This led to many more wounds on Colin’s body, leaving him in intense pain and discomfort.

Colin’s sister said the ordeal was so severe that he only had 30% chance of survival.

She said the ordeal was compounded by the fact his family weren’t initially able to in Costa Rica to support him.

Tanja Willis said: “It’s been absolutely horrific for him, he is in exceptional amounts of pain, he can’t sit properly- he only had a 30% chance of survival because it’s such a rare bacterial infection and there aren’t many antibiotics that can treat these types of infections.

“He is in Costa Rica, he’s in the public hospital there, he’s got no family, he’s got his girlfriend but he was weeks in hospital where very few people spoke English, absolutely no visitors allowed, no family around dealing with what was a near death experience fighting for his life for week- it’s just been awful.”

Colin Graw 47, went to Costa Rica after receiving an investment opportunity and was due to come back to the UK at the end of January, but was struck down by the infection.

After trial and error, doctors in the hospital were able to find the antibiotics that would help Colin to fight off the flesh eating disease.

However, he is still not in the clear as his wounds are prone to more infection.

Colin is still forced to visit the hospital three times a week to keep infections at bay.

After weeks of staying in touch over the phone, at the end of January, Tanja was eventually able to fly to Costa Rica but only given limited time to hold her brother’s hand.

She said: “They’re still trying to fight off infections that are highly resistant to antibiotics.

“He is too ill to travel so we’re not in a position to get him home.

“Since the visit, I’ve been in contact with Katya, his partner who he is now at home with and we communicate via Whatsapp and social media so that I can get regular updates on his progress and treatments and just to keep him motivated to stay strong so it’s been quite difficult but thank goodness for modern technology.

“For weeks, he was not allowed a phone in hospital so we had very limited contact with him and could only get in touch with him through the doctors.

“It’s quite difficult for him to communicate because he is very tired, on pain medication, still on antibiotics.

“He’s very weak and tired- initially it was very difficult because he was on such high levels of medication.”

Being away from Colin at a time like this has taken its toll on Tanja and she says she has struggled to keep in touch due to language barriers.

“I just feel so helpless – the language from receiving information and really understanding what’s going, sometimes things get lost in translation,” she said.

“I think he was exceptionally unlucky to contract bacteria like that.

“He was on the beach one day, and three days later he was in hospital fighting for his life, it happened so quickly.

“It was just supposed to be a day procedure – he just got an infection and it literally escalated from something minor to him being lying on his death bed.”

The ordeal also means the family have been lumped with large medical bills.

Currently, the medical costs have amounted to around £80,000 but with the further medical treatment required it has been estimated the total cost will be as much as £150,000.

Without it, Colin will not get well or get home.

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To help him, Tanja set up a GoFundMe page, pleading for help via donations. Already, the page has raised just over £9,000 in six days.

“Colin has to fund all of this himself- we as a family being so far away can’t help with the medical treatments or even help looking after him but this is why I’m appealing for help,” Tanja said.

“I want him to be able to focus on his recovery and not have to worry about finances and how he’s actually going to recover from the financial impact of this.

“I spoke to him yesterday and he said to me over the phone, he is absolutely shell shocked and overwhelmed by all the messages of support he has received from all over the world.

“We can’t help him physically but what we can do is lighten the financial burden for him and I am so grateful to all of the donations we have received from people all over.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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