FLORENCE, Ala. (CBS Local) — An Alabama man is in intensive care after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria while kayaking in the Tennessee River.

Ricky Rutherford is recovering at North Alabama Medical Center in Florence after undergoing surgery to remove the area of his leg infected with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death, AL.com reported.

Rutherford, his wife Cassey, their eight kids and family and friends went kayaking July 6 on the Tennessee River at Second Creek in Waterloo. Two days later, he was running a 103-degree fever and complaining of leg pain. By July 9, he could barely walk and was taken to the emergency room. Rutherford was treated with antibiotics and sent him home.

Rutherford returned to the ER the next day with a 105-degree fever. On Friday, he underwent surgery. On Saturday, doctors told Cassey to prepare for the worst.

“My husband is fighting for his life right now because of this horrible thing,” she wrote Sunday in a Facebook post. “I was one of those people who thought it would never happen to my family but look where we are now. We are paying the ultimate price! What seemed like a normal fun activity that we enjoyed as a family has turned into a nightmare. My heart is breaking seeing him like this and I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer the same fate.”

Recovery was slow at first, but Cassey posted on Monday that Ricky had beaten “the worst” of the infection and thanked everyone for their prayers and kind words.

“The surgeon came in a little while ago and told us that he is improving that he is looking great and that hopefully we would only be here another week!” she wrote on Facebook Monday. “It’s crazy to think that on Saturday they prepared me for the worst thing that could happen they prepared me to say goodbye and two short days later they gave me a miracle! The good Lord gave me a miracle! I will never take another day with my family for granted!”

Doctors say Ricky Rutherford will have a long road to recovery.

In the meantime, officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health are warning people with wounds or abrasions to avoid waterborne diseases by staying away from bodies of water like lakes, rivers or oceans. And if you’ve been injured in the water, wash and disinfect the wound out and monitor it closely.