A 52-year-old lady from Australia, Stephenie Rodriguez has narrated her experience after going down with malaria such that both feet were amputated.
According to her, she endured an 18-month nightmare when she contracted cerebral malaria from a mosquito bite during a visit to Lagos, Nigeria.
In a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, the single mother and digital entrepreneur had been invited for a photo shoot next to a pool of stagnant water while speaking at a business gathering of travel executives.
The socialite noted that it was while she was there, she got bitten three times by a mosquito on her left ankle.
Armed with enough insect repellant, Rodriguez said she conscientiously doused herself in insect repellant, owing to a bad reaction she suffered from an anti-malarial drug in the past.
Days later after flying to India, Rodriguez said she began to feel tired and exhausted but dismissed the feeling, describing it as ‘out of character’, but put it down to ‘compound jet-lag’.
Her next stop was Boston, it was Rodriguez’ first time in the US, but her trip was abruptly cut short when she was rushed to hospital after struggling to eat and drink.
An infectious diseases specialist had confirmed that Rodriguez had cerebral malaria just 24 later, but by then she had fallen into a coma.
According to doctors, Rodriguez had only a two per cent chance of survival after Artesunate – a drug used to treat severe malaria – sent her into septic shock and organ failure.
In a last-ditch effort to save her life doctors used vasopressor drugs to redirect blood flow from her limbs to her vital organs.
“It was the last trick in the bag, and they cautioned my family that if I survived, there would be collateral damage,” she said.
“The vasopressors robbed my feet and hands, the things furthest from my heart, of blood and like frostbite, the areas without blood and oxygen began to die.”
The drugs caused her feet and hands to blacken from necrosis and at one point she witnessed her own toe fall off into her hand.
“It was horrible, absolutely horrible. Completely unimaginable,‘ she said.
After being airlifted back to Australia, doctor’s advised Rodriguez would have to undergo an above the knee amputation along with several fingers.
Horrified by the thought she held off on the procedure, instead of undergoing multiple skin grafts and surgeries to see if her condition would improve.
Eventually, she had to have her remaining toes amputated and slowly came to the realisation she couldn’t put it off any longer.
Wheelchair-bound and unable to stand from unbearable pain, Rodriguez underwent drastic surgery to have both feet amputated and replaced with above-ankle bilateral osseointegrated implants and mechanical feet.
“It’s bizarre, but I had to cut my feet off to walk again,” she said.
Attached to the ends of each rod via an Allen key is a pair of prosthetic feet which now allow Rodriguez to move freely again.
But after thirty-six surgeries, Rodriguez is the first woman in Australia to receive the implants and mechanical feet which was developed by Australian professor, Munjed Al Muderis.
The Iraqi who became a leading surgeon of robotic limbs convinced her that giving up her blackened dead feet was her only hope of walking again.
Following surgery and hours of painful rehabilitation, Rodriguez celebrated a recent achievement of being able to walk in a pair of 4cm kitten heels again.
“I never really felt ‘dressed’ until I had a pair of killer heels on; the higher, the better. That’s just the sort of girl I was… still am,” she said.