CENTRAL LAKE - Although he was briefly re-admitted to Northern Michigan Regional Hospital over the weekend for further treatment, Central Lake Police Chief Scott Barrett appears to be on the mend from a dangerous infection that first struck him in late February.
The infection, thought to be a type of flesh-eating staph virus, came on very suddenly on Wednesday, February 29, the law enforcement officer said last week.
“It started out like any other day off,” said Barrett, who has been Central Lake’s police chief for the last several years, last week. “I was painting my bedroom, and took a break to have a sandwich, when suddenly, I got really cold-like I was standing in a freezer.”
Then he felt a pain on his right side-that got increasingly worse. The next morning, the pain and the swelling of his right leg sent him first to the clinic in Bellaire, then to the hospital in Charlevoix.
“When I got there, I thought they’d give me something and send me home, or, at worst, keep me overnight,” he said. “But the next day they moved me to Northern Michigan Regional in Petoskey.”
In Petoskey he was visited by an infectious disease specialist, who told him he would be having immediate surgery. “I just looked at him,” Barrett said. “I said, ‘Now? It’s 10 o’clock at night!’”
“That’s when I realized that I might really be up against something,” he said. “The next morning I woke up and all my family was there, including my brother from southern Illinois, who drove through the big snow storm we had to be there.”
Over the next week, Barrett suffered through a total of five surgeries to drain the unknown infection from his body while doctors grilled him on where he had been, what he had been doing, what he had been eating or might have been exposed to.
“That’s when they told me they were trying to save my leg,” the 43 year-old said grimly. A number of different antibiotics were given to the Central Lake resident, without success.
One of those drugs convinced the police chief that he was having a heart attack. “It felt like I had an elephant on my chest. That’s when I spent two days in the ICU unit.”
“That’s when I started contemplating the thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to be on this earth that long,” he said.
Doctors continued to scratch their heads as they attempted to fight what was described to Barrett as something very little in medical science is known about.
Finally, another anti-biotic turned the tide, and after 15 days of hospitalization, five surgeries, and a litany of medications and treatments, Barrett came home in mid-March.
His recovery, until last weekend when the infection briefly re-emerged, had been steady, and the police chief was able to return to work part-time. After another surgery to clean and flush the infected areas of his leg, Barrett once again returned to work and physical therapy on Tuesday.
The police chief said he could not begin to thank his family, friends, and especially, the residents of Central Lake for their concern during his illness. “The way people have jumped in to help has been incredible. I got tons of phone calls, visitors, meals brought to the house, and cards,” he grinned. “Some of the cards were signed by so many people you couldn’t read the print on the card, many of those signatures from people I’ve never met.”
“I never thought people thought that much of me-after all, I’m a cop. It really meant a lot to me, and I’ll never forget it. Central Lake is a wonderful community and a great place to call home.”