How a woman’s mild neck strain turned out to be a carnivorous bacterial infection that spread to her spine and left her paralyzed
- Cleaner felt alleged neck strain
- She rested but lost movement of limbs
- Left paralyzed after emergency surgeries
A woman has been left paralyzed after what she thought was a simple neck strain turned out to be carnivorous bacteria that nearly claimed her life.
West Australian resident Karen Stevens, 54, began experiencing neck pain four weeks ago and attributed it to muscle strain from her cleaning job.
The New Zealander, who has lived in Australia for eight years, was told by doctors to rest, but on July 28 she was rushed to hospital after losing all feeling and movement in his arms and legs.
Rushed tests and MRIs showed Ms Stevens had a staph infection which had damaged the nerves, tissues and bones surrounding her spine.
After an emergency double laminectomy to remove bone abscesses and drain that were compressing her spinal cord, Ms Stevens appeared stable.
Washington resident Karen Stevens, 54, began experiencing neck pain four weeks ago and attributed it to muscle strain from her cleaning job.
However, three days later, Ms Stevens was struggling to breathe.
Another MRI showed the infection had entered his spinal canal and spread further up his spine, damaging the crucial C2-C7 vertebrae.
Doctors told Ms Stevens and her family that another surgery was needed to ‘flush’ the spine and drain the abscesses, but she only had a 10 per cent chance of surviving it.
Daughter-in-law Miro said the family had been given a “grim prognosis” over the chances of the operation being successful.
“But the strong, determined woman we know survived the operation and, after four days on a ventilator, progressed to a tracheostomy for a week and then no life support.” Miro wrote on a GoFundMe page.
“A huge feat after doctors said they weren’t sure she would ever be able to breathe again unaided.”
Miro said her mother-in-law “had the biggest heart and would do anything for anyone”.
Ms Stevens was left paralyzed due to a staph infection around her spine that threatened to end her life.
Ms. Stevens is not covered by Medicare, so the fundraising page has to cover some of her expenses and by Sunday night she had already surpassed her goal of raising $10,000 with $13,000 pledged.
“All funds will be used for her recovery while in Australia and for the costs of her return to New Zealand when she is medically stable for travel. She will then continue her rehabilitation at the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, New Zealand. Zeeland,” says the fundraiser.
In an update released Wednesday. Miro writes that Ms Stevens was to be transferred to the spine rehabilitation unit after 12 days in the neurology ward.
“It’s been hard on Mema’s mental state; although she remained mostly positive, there were some incredibly low days with awareness of her situation,” Miro said.
“She received small physiotherapy treatments while she was on the ward; she finds it very tiring but also feels invigorated afterwards.
A small sign of progress, Ms Stevens was able to sit in a chair with her back and neck supported for periods of an hour.
“We know the big steps and the progress that begins when she is in the spinal unit; she knows it will be a difficult path, but she is ready and willing to work,” said Miro.
Staphylococcus bacteria, or staphylococcus for short, are normally found on the skin and/or in the nasal cavities, but find their way into the body through sores or wounds, leading to infection.
In the most severe cases, staph infections can cause sepsis or death.
WHAT ARE STAPHYLOCOCCCAL INFECTIONS?
Staph infections, or “staphylococci,” are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus.
About one in three people carry harmless staph bacteria on their skin and it only causes problems when it enters the body through cuts, scrapes or medical equipment.
This can cause relatively minor skin infections, such as boils, but also serious infections affecting the blood, lungs, heart, and spine.
Symptoms of skin and soft tissue infection:
Boils: red, painful bumps that usually develop on the neck, face, armpits, or buttocks.
Impetigo – causes sores, blisters and scabs; usually in children
Skin abscesses – a collection of pus that appears as a painful bump under the surface of the skin
More serious conditions include:
Endocarditis – infection of the inner lining of the heart, leading to fever, chest pain and cough
Pneumonia – lung infection that causes coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain
Sepsis – a violent immune response leads to fever, rapid breathing and heart rate.
Boils and other more minor forms of infection usually do not require treatment. However, antibiotics may be given or a minor procedure to drain the pus from the skin.
For invasive infections, hospital treatment is required, which usually involves injections of antibiotics over several days.
How to avoid infection:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water
- Do not share towels, razors, bedding or toothbrushes
- Keep cuts clean and covered
Source: UK National Health Service