A dog lover woke up in hospital to find surgeons had amputated her hands and legs after she suffered a rare reaction to the saliva of one of her pets.
Surgeons removed Marie Trainer’s limbs to save her life as gangrene set in while she was in a coma.
Ms Trainer is thought to have become infected when one of her two dogs licked a scratch on her arm, causing her immune system to flare up.
When she first started feeling ill, in May, she thought it might be flu but was rushed to hospital after her temperature rose alarmingly.
The 54-year-old, from Ohio, US, developed sepsis, and suffered liver and kidney failure. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, she also complained of excruciating pain in her hands and legs.
Unable to breathe on her own, she was put into a coma and placed on life support.
Within hours, she started to suffer gangrene and necrosis in her legs and hands.
“We were getting new symptoms and worsening symptoms very rapidly,” said Gina Premier, her stepdaughter who is a nurse practitioner at the hospital.
Blood tests showed the infection was capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria commonly found in dogs’ saliva.
It’s believed such a severe reaction happens to only about one in a million people who come into contact with the saliva.
Dr Margaret Kobe, medical director of infectious disease at Aultman Hospital told Fox 8: “It’s fairly common in the oral flora or the mouth of a dog and it can be transmitted through a bite or sometimes just contact with saliva.”
People should ensure they wash their hands after playing with a dog, she said.
The organism may induce the immune system to do “some pretty horrible things”, she said.
In this case, they caused blood clots that damaged the tissues in Ms Trainer’s limbs so much they could not be saved.
Ms Trainer had surgery at least six times and was in hospital for nearly three months but remembers nothing before waking up in intensive care.
“It was very hard to find out that they had to remove my legs and my arms…very hard to cope with,” she told Fox 59.
She said her dogs licked her all the time.
Ms Premier said that if surgeons had not performed the amputations, her stepmother would have died: “It was so rapid in progression… there was nothing they could do.”
Ms Trainer, a hairdresser, faces rehabilitation and an uncertain future but paid tribute to the devotion of her husband, Matthew.
“He feeds me, dresses me, he’s here for me every day,” she said. “There’s lots of healing to do.”
An online fundraising campaign to help her adapt to her new life has so far raised $18,676 (£15,400).
Last year, a US man also had his limbs amputated after being infected by a dog lick.