Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to main content


Kenny's Story: Fateful Crab Pinch Leads to Near Arm Amputation and a Fight for his Life

Kenny Watts, an energetic 53-year-old Greenwood native, credits his team at Beebe Healthcare for saving his life, and restoring the functionality of his left hand after a fateful crab pinch.

Kenny was pinched on his left hand while cooking crabs at his home in August of 2017, and ended up contracting Vibrio Vulnificus (“a flesh-eating bacteria”), leading to a fight for his life.

“At first I didn’t think much of it after the crab pinch, and continued to cook. Then the next night, I became extremely sick and my coworker luckily came by to check on me, as I had not answered my phone. When things took a downward spiral quickly, my girlfriend drove me to Beebe’s Emergency Department in Lewes on Monday,” shared Kenny.

“We drove instead of taking an ambulance, as I was adamant about going to Beebe, my hospital of choice; I would have been routed elsewhere had we not driven,” added Kenny.

“On my way to the hospital, I was incoherent. The last thing I remember was an orderly or volunteer asking me could I get into the wheelchair, which I could not. I was in a coma for four days, and on life support for two days at Beebe in the ICU. It was not until I woke up Thursday, and everything was recounted for me,” said Kenny.

There was a strong chance of amputation, as the bacteria had spread up Kenny’s arm.

“During my stay at Beebe, I saw Dr. Olewiler who specializes in infectious diseases. Dr. Sopa performed the first two surgeries on my hand while at Beebe,” recalled Kenny.

Kenny had a total of five surgeries on his hand, two at Beebe and three in Baltimore.

OT Helped Kenny Use His Hand Again

After Kenny’s surgeries, he entered Beebe Healthcare’s Wound Healing Program, and then transitioned to Beebe’s Physical Rehabilitation Services for Occupational Therapy.

Kenny worked with Katie Merk, OTR/L, an occupational therapist (OT) at Beebe’s Rehoboth Beach Health Campus, over the course of around nine months. “I started my OT sessions with Katie in November 2017 and finished in July 2018. I originally met Katie while in the hospital at Beebe, as she also works inpatient. I can't say enough good things about her, but then again I can't say enough about the whole team of doctors, nurses, and therapists at Beebe. They are caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable. As many times as I've been to Beebe—and that's quite a few times over the past eight years or so—I’ve always been treated well by all. It's my hospital of choice. Nearly all of my doctors are in the Beebe network (with the exception of my foot doctor),” said Kenny.

Beebe’s occupational therapists work with a broad variety of individuals, including, but not limited to, those recovering from falls, surgeries, or chronic diseases and inflammation. OTs also work with individuals who have disabilities that may make it difficult for them to perform everyday tasks such as getting into or out of a car, putting a shirt and pants on, preparing a meal, or even just being able to hold a pen to sign one’s name.

Kenny was eager to return to work. He owns a janitorial services company, and credits OT for helping him get to where he needed to be. When Kenny first begin OT, he couldn’t bend of any his fingers or even move his hand. After hard work and multiple sessions with Katie, he regained full function of his left hand.

“In addition to my motivation to return to work, I wanted to be able to participate in certain favorite pastimes of mine. I love to shoot pool, and now I can play again. Also, I was able to attend Bike Week this year, and hold the clutch on my motorcycle. These are all things that make me happy, and feel like myself again,” said Kenny.

Kenny continues to practice the exercises at home that he learned while in OT at Beebe.

“Going back to OT and Katie, Beebe has a gem right there. I got so I couldn't wait to get there, just to sit and talk to her while she worked on my hand. She is the biggest reason that it functions the way it does today. I still keep her in the loop about my progress and concerns,” said Kenny.

"Kenny and I worked as a team to work towards our goals of increasing his overall independence and function of his left hand. Teamwork is important to help achieve the best possible outcome," added Katie Merk. “Kenny was very motivated and dedicated to his OT appointments.”

Thankful for his Life and to the Team at Beebe

Kenny recalled, “After all this happened, I saw my family doctor and he said to me, ‘Good to see you again, Kenneth!’ At that moment, my doctor emphasized to me the weight of those words. I came to the realization of the severity of what I had been through, as apparently I only had a 5% chance of survival during my ordeal at the hospital. I feel great today, going strong, and trying to live life to its fullest.”

About Beebe Physical Rehabilitation Services
Beebe Healthcare is thoughtfully investing in expanding our presence in Sussex County—making excellent, innovative, and accessible care a reality for our friends, families, and neighbors for future generations. Beebe is excited to be opening a new Rehoboth location in late October at 19324 Lighthouse Plaza Blvd., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971. For more information call, (302) 260-7346.

To learn more about Beebe Healthcare’s Physical Rehabilitation Services, visit The Program is dedicated to achieving a safe and speedy return to pain-free, productive independence through physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech/language pathology.

To find out how Beebe is Creating the Next Generation of Care, visit