Man developed sepsis and will lose legs after dog scratch

The 48-year-old lost both his feet and will now have to have his legs amputated in the New Year.

A father developed deadly sepsis and ended up in an induced coma after his family dog playfully jumped up to greet him and scratched his arm. Just hours later, Barry Wallace was rushed to A&E after his feet and part of his nose and ears began turning black after he was cut.

Sepsis can be triggered by an infection in any part of the body and can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Barry said he thought nothing of the incident in August 2015 after Staffordshire Bull Terrier Harley left a centimetre long scratch – similar to a paper cut – on his right arm after he came through the door at his mother Wendy’s house.

He said: ‘Harley had been Mum’s dog for five years. He’s really playful and was excited to see me, because I often took him for walks.

‘He jumped up and scratched my arm with his teeth. It was just a tiny scratch, the size of your fingernail. It drew blood, but it was so small that I didn’t give it another thought. He was excited to see me and it was just like a paper cut.’

Barry Wallace, from Nottingham, was rushed to A&E after developing a fever after his family dog left a tiny scratch of his arm

His feet and part of his nose and ears began turning black within hours of scratch, followed by a rash as the infection ravaged his body

Barry’s devastated mother Wendy took her dog to the RSPCA to be rehomed

‘He was in agony’

After spending a few hours with his retired mother, Barry, from Nottingham, East Midlands, returned to the home he shared with his cleaner girlfriend, Naomi Watt, where, later that evening, he began to shiver.

Naomi, 32, said: ‘We thought he’d eaten something dodgy, or had a stomach bug, so he went to bed.

‘But the next day he was getting worse and felt really ill. I was starting to panic that he wasn’t right.

‘His face had gone a bit purple and he was in agony.’

Barry, from Nottingham, East Midlands, is being cared for by his cleaner girlfriend Naomi. He woke from an induced coma to be told by doctors he needed his feet amputated.

After calling 999 – 23 hours after being scratched by the dog – Barry was rushed to the city’s Queen’s Medical Centre by ambulance.

Naomi added: ‘His feet and part of his nose and ears were turning black, so he was taken to A&E and then onto the intensive care unit.

‘Doctors had no idea what was wrong with him. It was in no way a savage dog bite, so no one even envisioned it could have caused it.’

By the next day, Barry had deteriorated and he was transferred to the intensive care unit at Nottingham City Hospital for specialist care because his kidneys had failed.

He was put in an induced coma, so his body had less work to do. Now Barry must have his legs amputated in the New Year as he is still suffering complications

Barry’s foot, shown the day before the operation, had turned completely black

‘I thought he was going to die. His legs had gone completely black and part of his arms, too,’ Naomi said.

Doctors told Barry’s four adult children, from a previous relationship, that he had contracted capnocytophaga – a bacteria which lives in the mouths of dogs and cats and, in rare cases, spreads to humans through bites, scratches, or close contact, causing illness.

He also had sepsis, a life threatening condition when, in response to an infection, the body turns on its own tissues and organs.

Naomi, Barry’s partner of 12 years, held a five-week vigil at his bedside, only to receive more devastating news – that he needed his feet and, at a later date, his legs amputated, because of the deadly blood poisoning.

She said: ‘I was devastated. But seeing what a bad state Barry’s feet were in, I knew there was no coming back from it.’

‘Now I can’t walk and it’s ruined everything,’ said Barry who is now raising funds for a scooter and wheelchair.

Everything has changed.

Brought out of his coma after six weeks, to go under the knife, Barry was told by doctors of their plan.


The organism Capnocytophaga Canimorsus is typically found in the saliva of cats and dogs. It has the low ability to cause disease in healthy individuals but has been known to cause severe illness in people with pre-existing conditions. Its transmission can occur through bites, licks or even close proximity to animals.

Symptoms usually appear within one to eight days of exposure, but mostly on the second day, and can range from flu-like symptoms to fulminent septicemia. Infection can usually be treated effectively with antibiotics and is recommended for a minimum of three weeks.

The faster the infection is diagnosed the better the chance of survival, but death is rare.

‘Barry couldn’t believe what had happened to him when he came around,’ Naomi said.

Discharged that November, following the double amputation, wheelchair-bound, Barry could no longer work. In the meantime, Wendy, 62, devastated by what had happened, took her dog to the RSPCA to be rehomed.

Naomi added: ‘I know it wasn’t the dog’s fault, but it’s one of those things that’s happened that has changed everything.

‘It wasn’t a savage bite, but it’s destroyed our lives and turned things upside down.’

Barry is forced to crawl around his house as he awaits a final operation to amputate both his legs below the knee in January, after which he hopes to get prosthetics.

He said: ‘Before this, I was working every day and had a proper life. Now I can’t walk and it’s ruined everything.

‘If it wasn’t for Naomi and my children, I’d dead by now. They have been so supportive.

‘Naomi cares for me and I couldn’t have done this without her.’

You can donate towards Barry’s scooter and wheelchair here.

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