Father of Edmond soldier watched fungal infection kill his son

An Edmond soldier who was wounded a month earlier in Afghanistan died last week from a fungal infection, his father said.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Modified: September 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm •  Published: September 28, 2013

Thomas Wickliff watched in horror as doctors cut off parts of his son for more than a month.

A leg. Part of his arm. The other leg. Eventually, doctors had nothing left to amputate, and Wickliff had to tell his son he was going to die.

Spc. James T. Wickliffchacin died Sept. 20 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after being injured Aug. 12 in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.

Wickliff said the injuries from the bombing were survivable, but his son contracted a fungal infection that spread voraciously.

“He came in from Afghanistan with the wounds, but it wasn't enough to kill him,” Wickliff said. “The problem is, he came in with a fungus, and the doctor's didn't have anything to fight the fungus.”

Wickliff said he promised his son he was going to be OK when he first arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center, because doctors expected he would recover.

But the infection wouldn't stop.

“I saw my son, day by day, lose something from his body. They started with the left leg. After that, they started to take off the tissue from his left arm.”

Later they amputated his right leg below the knee, then they took the rest of it. They next removed the left side of his pelvis.

When the infection continued to spread, doctors had no more options. Wickliffchacin had also contracted pneumonia, and doctors said he could not handle any more surgeries.

“I had to tell my son he wasn't going to make it, that there was nothing they could do,” Wickliff said.

Fungal infections among wounded military members are on the rise, according to medical experts. U.S. Medicine — a monthly professional publication for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service — reported on the issue last year.


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