Imagine the joy of hearing you’re pregnant! Now imagine having to cope with losing both your hands and feet? Such is the story for a Canadian mom, who after delivering her baby contracted a flesh-eating infection, leaving her in a medically-induced coma for two weeks — and with blackened, dying limbs.
World turns upside down for new mom
Lindsey Hubley and her fiancé Mike Sampson were thrilled to discover they were expecting their first child. But then, several days after her son, Myles, was born, the 33-year-old mom from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating disease. Necrotizing fasciitis, a serious bacterial skin infection, spreads quickly, killing the body’s soft tissue — and, if left untreated can be deadly.
Although dubbed “flesh-eating infection,” there’s more than one type of bacterium that causes this rare disease. These bacteria include group A Streptococcus or group A strep, Klebsiella, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Aeromonas hydrophila, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, health experts believe group A strep is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis. This potentially deadly and disfiguring disease, that affects between 700 to 1,100 people each year in the United States, enters the body through open wounds. In Hubley’s case, the flesh-eating bacteria entered via a perineal tear she experienced during childbirth — turning her world upside down.
Flesh-eating bacteria begins with flu-like symptoms
Early symptoms of NF are often mistaken for the flu, which include high fever, sore throat, stomachache, nausea, diarrhea, chills and general body aches, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. This is likely the reason why Hubley’s infection was initially diagnosed as constipation by a doctor at Izaak Walton Killam (IWK) Health Center, the Halifax hospital where Hubley gave birth.
Hubley says the doctor prescribed prune juice and high-fiber foods before offering her an enema. “I don’t remember her checking my temperature or vitals like my heart rate or blood pressure — or being physically examined, even though I’d torn my perineal during labor,” she told Cosmopolitan. “Because I assumed the doctor could differentiate between typical post-delivery symptoms and a more serious problem, I didn’t question the diagnosis — but wish I had.”
However, unlike the flu (or constipation), a person with NF may also experience redness and pain, often occurring at an inflection point. Infection points might include surgical sites, cuts, scratches, bruises, boils or drug injection sites. Without immediate medical attention, the infection spreads, causing tissue to die, and can go on to trigger septic shock, organ failure and even death. Treatment then involves removing dead or infected tissue and, for some, like Hubley, entire limbs.
Hubley was later taken to a different hospital, where she has undergone 23 surgeries including a total hysterectomy, the amputation of both hands and both legs below the knee, infected-tissue removal and skin grafting, she told Cosmopolitan.
“My legs and forearms were turning a bluish, grayish color, and I was terrified,” she told PEOPLE. “Doctors determined in the weeks that followed that there was no chance I’d regain use of my hands or feet, and I’d need a quadruple amputation.” She added, “an infection had caused blood clots to clog the veins carrying blood to my extremities, and my limbs were dying.”
Hubley and family sue hospital
Now, according to Hubley’s attorney, Ray Wagner, she is suing the hospital where she gave birth and was later wrongfully diagnosed. Wagner tells PEOPLE that Hubley alleges she developed the infection because doctors left part of her placenta in her body following the birth, and failed to properly repair a vaginal tear. “She also has suffered from kidney failure, so she will need a transplant,” Wagner said. “And she’s had a hysterectomy.”
According to the lawsuit, the doctors gave Hubley an enema for constipation. “They didn’t properly examine her… If they had done that, our contention is, her injuries would not have been as significant as they are,” Wagner said. “She may have still had some issues, but they wouldn’t be anywhere as close to where they are now.” The family is seeking compensation to cover the cost of Hubley’s prosthetics.
She stays positive but warns other new moms
Hubley manages to stay positive and be thankful that she’s still here to get to know the son she carried for nine months, she told Cosmopolitan. “After all, I came very close to not knowing him, and him not knowing me. And that would have been devastating.”
In rehab, she’ll learn to change diapers and feed her now seven-month-old boy. She also wants to learn how to walk again. She told PEOPLE she wants to walk, “Specifically, down the aisle so Mike and I can finally get married,” she said. Although they haven’t set a date, yet. “What we’ve been through has made our relationship so much stronger. He’s been my rock, and I’ve been his.”
Meanwhile, Hubley shared her story, as per the allegations in her lawsuit, not to scare women but to encourage new moms to trust their intuition when it comes to their health. A GoFundMe page has been set up to cover Hubley’s medical and living expenses.
— Katherine Marko