MAHONING COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – The last thing she remembers is feeling deathly ill before waking up from a six-week coma with no voice from the ventilator and all four limbs amputated.
“It was very, very foggy and then even after my family told me it took me a minute to realize like what had happened,” said Kristin Fox, a Northeast Ohio mother and Associate Principal at Northeast Ohio Impact Academy in Mahoning County.
“My kidneys were failing, my lung collapsed, I was getting purple and, my fingernails were falling off,” said Fox. “I really felt like I was just not going to make it!”
It was March 2020 when the active mother and educator felt sick and went to see her doctor.
Although she had received a flu shot that year she says, she was diagnosed with flu and sent home with the medication Tamiflu.
“It was a quick 1,2,3 here’s the Tamiflu take five days off, and I remember being on the bed like I’m so sick, I really felt like I was just not going to make it!”
The next day Kristin was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, and strep which was causing her body to go into septic shock.
“The sepsis is a blood infection and takes over your vital organs and that’s what was shutting everything down,” she said.
To save her life doctors had no choice but to amputate, first her legs and then her arms, “Because they were afraid it was spreading so rapidly.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year at least 1.7 million adults in the United States develop sepsis and around 270,000 of them die.
Per the CDC, a person with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:
High heart rate or weak pulse.
Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold.
Confusion or disorientation.
Shortness of breath.
Extreme pain or discomfort.
Clammy or sweaty skin.
To make matters worse for Kristin, when she finally woke up from the coma, the pandemic had begun, and she was unable to have all of her family with her at the hospital.
“I’m so grateful to the nurses and staff at Mercy hospital on the 7th floor like they became a family when I couldn’t have my family,” she said.
Missing her two children, family, friends and students she says she became determined to survive.
They fought to get her into a rehabilitation center in Pittsburgh where she spent weeks undergoing grueling physical therapy relearning to walk on prosthetic limbs and how to use prosthetic arms.
“It was the best fight of my life when I stood up the first time; they said walk 50 feet, and I went 250 feet,” she said.
Now more than three years later Kristin has regained her life; even learning to drive a car again and returning to work.
She says she uses her experience to inspire others with physical challenges, her own children and students, to never give up.
“Like there’s always a way out, always a way to do something differently and better,” she said, “I’m like, what happens when you fall? You get back up. Like I’m going to fall, but I’m going to get back up.”
She’s become an advocate for people with physical challenges and is fighting for better accessibility at local stadiums and buildings.
She’s also encouraging everyone to speak up for their own health, wishing she had that day in the doctor’s office.
“When this happened to me, I didn’t advocate enough and I should’ve…they didn’t even listen to my lungs,” she said, “Had I been on the antibiotic could my body have been fighting off the sepsis? probably.”
However, she doesn’t let it bring her down and does not want anyone to feel sorry for her.
Because she says stronger than “pity” is the power of purpose and love.
“We’re often faced with adversity that we don’t see coming but it’s how we respond to that in those moments,” said Fox, “I want people to believe in me and see I can do and other people can do we just do it differently.”