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Being fit helped one man triumph over a deadly infection.

Even the fittest among us can be caught off guard by a devastating illness. Hide Horikoshi, a Danville fitness trainer and dance instructor, says taking good care of himself helped him pull through a life-threatening infection.

Mr. Horikoshi, originally from Japan, came to Bloomsburg University to pursue a master’s degree in school counseling. There, he met his future wife, Cori, and decided to stay in the area. He opened Resurrection Movement Studio and Komotion Dance Program in 2015, a perfect fit for his love of working with children. 

In June 2023, Mr. Horikoshi started feeling dull pain in the left side of his chest. Cardiac testing came back negative for heart problems. However, he continued to feel worse, lapsing in and out of consciousness with increasing pain.

By the next day, the pain had spread to his upper back and become agonizing. He also developed flu-like symptoms, spurring his family to take him back to the ER. Mr. Horikoshi lost consciousness, later waking in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.

A collage of various activities featuring  patient, Hide Horikoshi.

A rare diagnosis

Diagnosing Mr. Horikoshi’s sudden illness took the expertise of his care team — notably Tae-Sung Kwon, MD, an infectious diseases physician at Geisinger Medical Center. When Dr. Kwon was called in to consult on the case, he immediately recognized the urgency of the situation.

“Hide was lethargic. He couldn’t speak, was confused and wasn’t with us,” Dr. Kwon says. He noted the pain had spread from the left side of Mr. Horikoshi’s torso to near his hip. The skin was firm to the touch and very warm. 

Dr. Kwon immediately shared his concern about toxic shock syndrome with the ICU and surgical teams. He arranged for the ICU team to begin care and contacted a surgeon. They had no time to waste in removing the infected tissue before the bacteria spread to vital organs and muscle tissue. “We needed all hands on deck,” Dr. Kwon says.

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by bacteria that produce poisons (toxins). Symptoms appear suddenly and worsen rapidly. The bacteria that was the culprit in Mr. Horikoshi’s case was caused by the same species of bacteria that causes strep throat: group A Streptococcus. In rare cases, the bacteria enters the body through a break in the skin. Instead of causing a sore throat, it gets into the bloodstream and can spread quickly to the bloodstream and soft tissues.

The toxins produced by the bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as “flesh-eating disease.” Necrotizing means causing the death of tissues. Fasciitis is inflammation of the fascia — the tissue under the skin that surrounds muscle, nerves, fat and blood vessels and holds everything in place.

A long journey back to health

Treatment for necrotizing fasciitis involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria and surgery to remove infected tissue and prevent bacterial spread. Mr. Horikoshi had 12 such surgeries before his infection was completely gone. And because that meant removing a large area of skin, he also needed skin grafts. Other organ systems were severely affected, too.

As he healed, scarring led to tightness and loss of mobility on Mr. Horikoshi’s left side. So he still visits Geisinger Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital once a week, where physical therapist Becky Betz works with him on regaining range of motion and flexibility. “She respects me, listens and collaborates with me on my therapy,” he says.

A collage of various activities featuring  patient, Hide Horikoshi.

Now, in the wake of such a serious health issue, Mr. Horikoshi continues to adjust his routine based on what his body can do. He can’t dance like he used to, and he’s mindful of how he moves and what his body needs.

But it’s more than physical recovery. He’s also recovering from the toll the illness took on his mental health. On days he’s in a dark place mentally, Mr. Horikoshi tries to shift his mindset.

“When you operate from a standpoint of gratitude, everything changes,” he says. He’s grateful for everything — family, friends, work, being part of the community — because, as he says, “it all could have been gone.”

A cautionary tale

Dr. Kwon, who lives down the street from Mr. Hirokoshi, still sees him from time to time in the neighborhood. He attributes his patient’s relatively quick recovery to starting out healthy and fit, which gave him an advantage when the infection set in.

Necrotizing fasciitis is very rare, Dr. Kwon stresses, but it’s smart to know the signs and seek immediate medical care for them. Early symptoms include: 

  • Red, warm or swollen area of skin that spreads rapidly
  • Severe pain in the affected skin and other areas
  • Fever

Later symptoms that can develop are:

  • Blisters or ulcers on the ski
  • Changes in skin color
  • Pus or oozing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Nearly a year since his hospitalization, Mr. Horikoshi encourages everyone to make time to take care of themselves. “If it means you have the ability to survive these situations, it’s worth it,” he said. “I’m grateful to be here.”

Watch Hide Horikoshi tell his story in his own words.

A man stands in the middle of a group of smiling teenagers.
Hide Horikoshi with participants in his youth athlete training program.

This story originally appeared in the summer issue of PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.

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