Passengers on the Transavia Airlines flight to Amsterdam, the Netherlands on May 29th will always remember this trip. When the plane took off, they were quickly irritated or made to feel sick by a particularly nauseating odour. It was an ‘unbearable’ smell and they soon found where it was coming from.
It wasn’t coming from a clogged toilet or meal trays that had gone off, but from one of the passengers. One of the travellers named Piet van Haun spoke to the Expresswhilst he was getting off the plane… 'It was like he hadn’t washed himself for several weeks, several passengers got sick and had to puke.'
The flight attendants tried everything they could, and even tried to confine the smelly passenger to the toilet.
But this wasn’t enough. The pilot finally decided to deviate from the initial course and make an emergency landing in Portugal, to allow the passenger in question to get off. Unfortunately for Andrey Suchilin, a 58-year-old Russian, his smell wasn’t due to bad hygiene and was tragically a lot worse.
A pestilential infection
After being taken by the medical services in Fargo Airport, the Russian was then hospitalised. From his room, he managed to post a message on Facebook which explained that he had caught an infection during his stay in the Canary Islands but didn’t specify what it was.
Shortly after, his wife spoke out on social media, talking about the difficulties they had been having with their insurance company and said that her husband had already consulted a Spanish doctor before leaving. The practitioner then diagnosed him with ‘an ordinary beach infection’, prescribed him some antibiotics and said he could go home.
At the Portuguese hospital, the man’s health quickly deteriorated, leading the doctors to make a much more serious diagnosis. Their examinations revealed that Andrey Suchilin was suffering from necrotising fasciitis, a little-known infection that leads to the death of the body's soft tissue.
The ‘flesh eating bacteria’
Necrotising fasciitis is a rare disease, but its consequences can be severe and even potentially fatal. It’s caused by different bacteria, including a species of the genus Streptococcus. These micro-organisms are regularly given the name ‘flesh-eating bacteria’, although this name doesn’t actually reflect what it does.
Generally, the bacteria enter the skin through a cut or a burn. Then once it’s in the body, it releases various toxins, some of which can stop blood vessels working and cut off the oxygen supply to your cells and organs. Eventually, this coupled with the effect of other toxins will cause the death of cells and tissue necrosis.
Symptoms can vary and may be subtle at first: a slight rash, a small swelling or a fever, which can make diagnosing it very difficult. However, the infection usually gets worse quite fast and will lead to the appearance of bubbles and a larger rash. Subsequently, necrotic tissue will start to develop and the organs are affected.
Treatment too late
Necrotising fasciitis requires urgent management and treatment so that the growth of bacteria and the progression of the necrosis can be slowed down. Unfortunately for Andrey Suchilin, it was already too late, as the infection had already taken his heart, his kidneys and his lungs. The man was placed in an artificial coma.
As early as June 7th, his wife warned people on social media that ‘nothing else could have been done’ and added that nothing was working. On June 25th, she finally announced on Facebook that her husband had died at the age of 58. When asked by Newsweek,Transavia airline said that the staff 'sympathise with the family members and wish them a lot of strength in processing their loss.'
Andrey Suchilin was a professional guitarist, known for being in the band C-Major (До Мажор). According to CNN, he had participated in the popularisation of rock ‘n’ roll in Russia in the 1980s. His death has caused quite a stir on his Facebook page.