CRESTVIEW — Eleven years ago, Capt. David Turnage of the Crestview Fire Department was doing some routine training at a defunct daycare in a building soon to be demolished.
The trainees were breaching walls, practicing ventilation and weaving through search and rescue scenarios. And, since smoke rises, Turnage and his coworkers often had to crawl to stay under the smoke. They did all of this in a pair of denim jeans underneath their bunker gear. By lunchtime, Turnage’s knees were chafed.
"During that lunchtime I had rug burns — friction burn — from my denim jeans under my gear and I wasn’t the only one; a couple of the other guys had burns, and I’ve had rug burns all my life because I played baseball, so I was used to having those," he said.
That night, Turnage returned home from work and bandaged his knees. Throughout the week, his leg scabbed over and everything was moving along swimmingly, just in time for a long-awaited trip he planned to take with his wife to Las Vegas.
It wasn’t until he was on the plane to Sin City that he noticed something was amiss.
"I got up on the plane to go to the restroom and my knee felt funny," he said.
But he let it slide because he has a high tolerance for pain and he had no desire to ruin his much anticipated vacation.
So he arrived with his wife, Lisa, and began to see the sights, which included a lot of necessary walking.
"It’s Las Vegas, you just walk everywhere; and as the day progressed, my knee just kept getting worse and worse," he said. "The aching wouldn’t stop."
Turnage did a closed-door self-examination back at the hotel and noticed a pimple-sized bump next to his right knee. He thought it was an ingrown hair.
Then it popped and metastasized; by Wednesday, he said, he "couldn’t hide it anymore," and began limping everywhere. And that’s when his wife began to notice.
Then his leg began to swell until all dimensionality left and it became "one size."
But he toughed it out.
When the couple were at the airport that Friday preparing for their red eye flight, air personnel asked him to take off his shoes. And when he took of his right shoe, his foot became so swollen that he couldn’t put it back on again.
"Then I had a cross-country flight back home and it is taking everything for me not to cry," he said.
When he finally arrived at his Milton home he found himself on the bathroom floor unable to move and that’s when he called his mother to take him to his primary care physician.
"My primary care physician looked at me and said ‘what did you do,’" he said.
Within no time, Turnage’s primary care physician sent him off to an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Hospital in Gulf Breeze who began by testing him for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.
"At first they were going to do a test to see if I had MRSA and I asked my doctor, ‘how will I know if [I] have MRSA,’ and he said, ‘Well if you see nurses come in with suits on, you will know you have MRSA."
About an hour later the nurses came in and determined that he didn’t have MRSA. Doctors discovered he had a staph infection (Staphylococcus Aureus). Or as his doctor quipped, "everything staph."
"I remember my doctor telling me that I had everything but MRSA," Turnage said. "He joked by calling it the ‘everything staph.’"
"They had to deplete my entire body of bacteria, even the good bacteria your body needs like yogurts and things like that," said Turnage. "They depleted my whole body of that. It was like I was living in a bubble that made me susceptible to any kind of germs."
Days later, surgeons removed the severely infected bursa sac from Turnage’s knee.
"I never knew what a bursa sac was until they removed it," he said.
The bursa sac is a small fluid-filled sac on the knee that provides padding between the bones tendons, and muscles around the joint.
After surgery, nurses attached a catheter on either side of Turnage’s knee for the abscess to drain. By the end of the week he was released.
However, he stayed at home for two months before returning to work. The first month he was bedridden and being treated by a home health nurse. The second month he went to physical therapy in Pace to prepare for his return to the fire department.
"I did various different exercises that were firefighter related to get my strength back up and I had to get the release from the doctor to come back to work," he said.
"It was definitely one of the more painful instances I have ever encountered."
Despite this major medical setback, Turnage is still serving at the Crestview Fire Department.
And, now, he is an adoptive father. After Turnage and his wife, Lisa, married in 2005, they tried desperately to have a baby, but it just didn’t happen.
"We went to a fertility specialist and after sitting with one and talking about what was involved in going to one we decided that was not the route that we wanted to take, especially on my wife’s side — everything that’s involved that the woman has to go through..." Turnage said.
"The odds of success were very minimal and because of how invasive it was we discussed that adoption was the best source for us."
And today, Turnage and his wife have a 5-year-old girl, Nayla Jane.