An in-grown hair is an annoying, yet common, occurrence.
Yet, for Jawaun Brown, it as an annoyance that was to leave him fighting for his life.
After falling ill, the then 37-year-old, from Ohio, dismissed his symptoms as a common cold.
But, the shaking, vomiting and shivering he was suffering were, in fact, signs of a much more serious condition.
Mr Brown’s body was being ravaged by the flesh-eating bug, necrotizing fasciitis.
The bacteria which causes the infection had made its way into his body via the infected in-grown hair on his right leg.
The first sign that something was seriously wrong came when Mr Brown collapsed at his mother’s home.
He was rushed to hospital where doctors diagnosed the potentially life-threatening infection.
One surgeon told him, ‘God have mercy on you’, before he underwent a six-hour operation to save his leg – and his life.
The surgery was touch-and-go, with Mr Brown, now 40, reporting he briefly died on the operating table – before being resuscitated.
Doctors later told Mr Brown that if he had arrived at the hospital hours later, there is no way he would have survived.
Mr Brown is a former government worker, who has also promoted music artists and worked as a photographer.
He had no idea that he had an in-grown hair when visiting his mother Yolanda at her home in June 2013.
The then 37-year-old started to feel ill – but thought he was merely feeling under the weather.
Mr Brown said: ‘I thought it was the flu. Nothing serious – just a fever.
‘I was shaking, vomiting and shivering, but I wasn’t worried.’
He went to bed, and the next morning his mother went to check on him – knowing he was ill.
However, Mr Brown was unresponsive, and his right leg was twice the size of his left leg.
Mr Brown said: ‘She called 911. I was taken by ambulance to hospital in Wintersville.
‘I was drifting in and out of consciousness in the ambulance.’
At the hospital, Mr Brown was told by a nurse that he’d likely lose his leg.
During the surgery his leg surgeons sliced open Mr Brown’s leg, from his knee to groin – and three-and-a-half inches of fat and skin were cut away.
Blood and culture tests indicated the culprit was necrosting fasciitis, and he was pumped full of antibiotics to kill the infection.
But after the surgery, Mr Brown was still gravely ill.
And so, he was transferred to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to undergo numerous skin grafts.
There, the infection in Mr Brown’s leg was also sucked out through a vacuum pump.
Mr Brown spent his first two weeks at West Penn in a medically induced coma.
He said: ‘I needed time to recover. When I woke, I learned that skin needed to be grafted from my left leg to my right leg.
‘It was mid-July – but I thought it was June. I couldn’t understand where the time had gone.’
Mr Brown spent the next four months in the hospital.
But after he was released, he was unable to walk, and was thus sent to a nursing home.
Mr Brown said: ‘I was the youngest person there. So I left and hired a nurse to come to my house and help me learn to walk again.’
Eventually, Mr Brown – who had previously been athletic and loved playing American football – was able to walk with a Zimmer walker frame by December 2013.
It wasn’t until a few months later that he was able to walk unaided.
However, the time Mr Brown spent bed-bound left him weak – with cuts and sores on his feet.
He said: ‘I had a relapse this year – a callus fell off my foot, which has left me unable to walk.’
But remarkably, Mr Brown remained positive throughout his ordeal.
‘I was lucky to neither lose my leg nor die, but it’s had a lasting impact,’ he said. ‘Three years on, I still can’t walk properly.
‘It’s amazing to think that this was caused by an in-grown hair.’
Mr Brown plans to write a book about his experiences – and hopes to maintain his healthy attitude.
‘I’ll keep smiling whatever happens.’