A 31-year-old Texas man died after he ignored warnings not to swim with a brand-new tattoo.
The patient, identified only as a Latino man living in Texas, had recently acquired a large leg tattoo showing hands in prayer with the words “Jesus is my life,” when he went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, a British Medical Journal report said.
Tattoo artists warn that customers should avoid exposing fresh ink in the days after they are tattooed — and that they should definitely not swim, to avoid bacterial infection.
“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, owner of DareDevil Tattoo in Manhattan, told the Daily News.
Five days after getting the tattoo, the man who died went for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico, the BMJ report shows. Three days later, he was admitted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas complaining of pain in his legs and feet, chills, a fever, and redness around his tattoo.
A doctor at the facility described him as “among the sicker of the patients” he’d ever seen.
“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.”
The patient suffered from chronic liver disease after drinking six 12-ounce beers a day, the report said.
He entered into septic shock and was placed on a ventilator.
He tested positive for Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium found in coastal ocean water that causes vibriosis infection.
Patients with liver disease are among the most susceptible to infection.
The patient was kept sedated for weeks before dying of septic shock about two months after he was first admitted to the hospital.
Experts suspect the patient might have been inked by an amateur tattoo artist.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that ever,” Myles said. “When I saw the pictures, it was pretty horrifying. It’s definitely something way outside of what’s normal,” she said.
“If it’s done in a professional, proper, environment, it is a very minimally invasive procedure. It is just like a surface scratch and is really not something most people have problems with. There is a very good chance that guy might not have gotten a very good tattoo to begin with and the skin could have gotten chewed up and it might have been more deep than your normal tattoo.”