20.04.2024

Mom-of-five loses her leg after it was ravaged by flesh-eating superbug

A mother-of-five had to have her leg amputated below the knee after developing a flesh-eating bacterial infection. Angie Fowler, now 41, from Fort Worth, Texas, broke her right leg and ankle in 2011 when she fell in the snow while playing with her children.

She had multiple reconstructive surgeries over the next four years after her ankle kept ‘collapsing’ leaving her unable to walk.

But after one operation, she caught an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, which led to necrotizing fasciitis and septic shock.

Angie Fowler, now 41, fell and broke her leg and ankle while playing in the snow with her children in 2011. After multiple surgeries, the mother contracted MRSA which led to nectrotizing fasciitis. After the infection spread to her bone, doctors said they had no option but to amputate

Angie Fowler, now 41, fell and broke her leg and ankle while playing in the snow with her children in 2011. After multiple surgeries, the mother contracted MRSA which led to nectrotizing fasciitis. After the infection spread to her bone, doctors said they had no option but to amputate

When her ankle kept collapsing leaving her unable to walk she was offered an ankle replacement, where the bones are replaced by an artificial implant. But this kept causing her issues. When medics performed another operation to check the implant, she contracted MRSA which developed in necrotizing fasciitis (shown above)

The mother had three surgeries a week for seven months after contracting MRSA as doctors tried to fight off the infection. But she eventually had to be moved to a hospital in Dallas after the infection spread to the bone

During everything, Ms Fowler said that what kept her motivated was her children. In 2020, she fell pregnant with her fifth child Cooper. Shown above is her partner John and their five children Presley, 20, (right) Reese, 18, (between parents) Tylar, 11, (holding youngest) Jase, 9, (bottom left) and Cooper, 2 (center)

Doctors said they had no option but to amputate or the bug may have spread to other parts of the body, where it could have become deadly.

She spent two years in and out of hospital but said her children motivated her to keep going. In 2020, she fell pregnant with her fifth child, Cooper, who is now two years old.

She said about the amputation: ‘I got really depressed for a few months and thought I would never be able to live a normal life like work out, run, or even keep up with my kids.’

‘The thing that killed me the most was that I wasn’t able to pick up my babies for years.

‘If they got hurt, or one wanted to be held, I had to sit down and have someone bring them to me.’

But after two years of repeated hospital visits, the mother is now adapting to life using a prosthetic leg and is even planning to run 5km at the Boston Marathon in April.

‘I missed so much of my kids growing up when I was sick and in the hospital,’ she said.

‘[Nowadays] anytime they ask me to do something or sit and play with them, I do.

‘I am so grateful to be here right now and I don’t want to take a minute of that for granted.

‘It is crazy, messy and chaotic, but I wouldn’t change a thing.’

Ms Fowler had screws and plates inserted to hold her ankle in place after taking a fall in 2011.

But the procedure failed and her ankle struggled to support her weight when she stopped wearing a cast.

She had several more surgeries over the following years before being referred for an ankle replacement to replace the damaged joint with prosthetic components.

But when that failed to give her physical support, doctors hauled her back in to go under the knife once more – this time to inspect her new ankle.

When she woke up following the surgery and doctors unwrapped her leg, her foot, ankle and part of her leg were ‘purple and black’.

She was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to most antibiotics.

When a course of drugs failed, the infection began to spread.

She developed septic shock, an immune overreaction caused when an infection gets into the blood stream and the body goes into hyperdrive. It can be deadly.

Doctors said that if they did not amputate the limb, she would not make it through the weekend. The amputation was carried out in 2015.

Since then she has needed another 45 surgeries on the amputated limb over two years and had to learn how to use a prosthetic.

After the amputation, the mother has had to learn how to walk on a prosthetic. She admitted to initially hating the device, but is now training to run Boston Marathon in April

She has had several different prosthetics since losing her right leg below the knee

She has had several different prosthetics since losing her right leg below the knee

Ms Fowler is shown above with her amputated limb. She now posts videos on YouTube explaining what it is like to have a prosthetic

Despite being told she could not get pregnant, in 2020 she fell pregnant with their youngest Cooper, who is now two years old

NECROTIZING FASCIITIS: THE VICIOUS FLESH-EATING BACTERIA

Necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. ‘Necrotising’ refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat.

The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.

Because it is so virulent, the bacteria spreads rapidly throughout the body.

Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are also common complications.

Sufferers must be treated immediately to prevent death, and are usually given powerful antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue. Amputation can become necessary if the disease spreads through an arm or leg.

Patients may undergo skin grafts after the infection has cleared up, to help the healing process or for aesthetic reasons.

There are 500 to 1,500 cases reported a year, but 20 to 25 percent of victims die.

But the mother — who also works as an operations manager at FedEx Express — now finds her life getting back to a new kind of normal.

She admitted to initially ‘hating’ the prosthetic and finding it ‘uncomfortable’ and that she could only wear it for ‘a couple of hours a day’.

‘I walked with crutches with my prosthetic because my leg was so sore and I thought I’d never be able to walk without pain or assistance again,’ she said.

‘I truly thought my life was over.

‘[But] eventually, I decided that I could be bitter and angry or I could start living my life.

‘I knew I wanted to live and would do whatever it took to stay alive.’

She said much of her determination to get better came from her now five children she has with partner John — Presley, 20, Reese, 18, Tylar, 11, Jase, nine, and Cooper, two.

The mother has also launched a YouTube channel to raise awareness about amputees.

Describing her life today, she said: ‘My kids are so helpful and want to help me with everything.

‘Sometimes they take advantage of that, too.

‘My two-year-old will run from me when he’s playing because he knows I can’t catch him.

‘My kids have adapted so well and they tell me it doesn’t bother them and they love me regardless.’

In 2020, Ms Fowler fell pregnant with her fifth child — which came as a complete surprise after doctors said it was unlikely that she would still be able to have children.

She said: ‘The pregnancy was more difficult because the added weight in the later months of pregnancy put more stress on my leg.

‘Due to swelling and weight gain, my socket was getting too tight and I had to go into a temporary socket.

‘I wasn’t able to wear my prosthetic all day due to the soreness and swelling.

She added: ‘Everything is different, I have to adapt to a lot of things in my life, but I am more active now than I was before my amputation.

‘Daily activities are a struggle, for example, getting in the shower or getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.

‘I also still get very bad nerve and phantom pain.

‘Your brain still thinks your leg is there, but I have learned that the small things don’t matter.

‘I am grateful to be alive.

‘I have learned that I can do anything if I push myself hard enough, and say yes to doing something that might be a challenge.’

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