Visalia freshman football player who contracted flesh-eating bacteria has hope to return to game

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hiding beneath the bandages on Matt Gonzales' left hand is a severe wound from a flesh-eating bacteria. He may have caught it during football practice.

"This is why we need to keep our equipment clean, this is why people need to wash their hands."

It's a lesson Gonzales learned after he nicked his finger on his helmet.

"Just imagine a little red dot on your finger, that was just about it."

Within 36 hours Gonzales dreams of playing his freshman for El Diamante were over. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis and the cause, according to Valley Children's Hospital, was a Strep-a infection. It was eating away at his dominant left hand and getting into his blood.

Angela Rodriguez is a surgeon who helped save Gonzales' hand by cleaning it out. She said he will likely need therapy and reconstructive surgery but it could have been worse.

"We didn't have to do anything irreversible to his hand, so I think he's, in that sense, lucky."

The timing made all the difference since the infection was caught early and for that, Rodriguez said, Gonzales' mom, Camil Flores, deserves the credit.

"It's hard for our family going through this right now, so I can't imagine another family going through this."

At this point, no one is really sure where Gonzales picked up the bacteria. It could have been the helmet, so he's hoping this story will serve as a reminder to keep equipment clean.

As for football Gonzales' is out for the season, but he has hope to make a comeback his sophomore year. Even if he has to learn to catch with his right hand.

"You gotta always think positive, because if you think positive positive things will probably end up happening to you," said Gonzales.
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