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Purple Heart awarded to JSO officer who lost leg to flesh-eating bacteria

Infection resulted from cut suffered during Hurricane Matthew

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 21-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was awarded the Purple Heart Thursday for losing his leg while on duty during Hurricane Matthew. 

Officer Dennis Godfrey was responding to a property check while Hurricane Matthew was tearing through the area when he suffered a cut that became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria that nearly took his life. 

“When exiting his vehicle, Dennis went to his patrol car door slamming it into his leg and breaking the skin.” Sheriff Mike Williams said. “Dennis treated the small cut and continued throughout the rest of the storm.”

Williams said 12 days after the storm, the small cut wasn't healing and Godfrey was rushed to the hospital. The cut became infected with Vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria. The infection forced doctors to amputate his leg.  

Godfrey barely survived and recovering wasn't easy. He was able to return to work in June, roughly nine months after Hurricane Matthew. He’s turning his ordeal into something positive by trying to inspire others and raise awareness. 

“If I can be an inspiration to help others to help anybody because there are so many people who are in a similar situation but are a lot worse than I am,” Godfrey said. “A lot of people contract the bacteria and lose all of their limbs. I was lucky in that I only lost a leg and I can use it now.”

Since returning to work, Godfrey is working in the body camera section. He’s still working to get his prosthetic leg to the perfect fit so he can start running and pass his agility tests and get back on the street. Until then, he said he is very content with being back to work, no matter the department.  

Godfrey said receiving the award was humbling and that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his wife, the JSO family and the community.