It’s the kind of nightmare story you don’t think about when you get the flu.
In 2020, Ohio resident Kristin Fox woke with a case of influenza. No big deal, right? (Although it did happen in March, just as COVID-19 was beginning to take over the headlines.)
Surely, then, a mere case of the flu was nothing to worry about. Instead, she lost both her arms and legs and began a three-year struggle that’s culminated in her learning to walk, drive and act independently again.
According to Fox News, the first symptom was a mere sore throat. That was on a Friday. Things progressed to the point where she went to urgent care on Sunday, testing positive for the flu. (Fox had, for the record, gotten her flu shot in November.)
She left urgent care with a prescription for Tamiflu, an antiviral medication meant to reduce the severity of influenza. It didn’t work.
“I felt like I was dying,” she told Fox News, adding she couldn’t even make it off the couch.
After a nurse friend came over and found that her oxygen levels and blood pressure were severely low, she drove her to a small hospital in the area — where they gave her dire news.
“Within 30 minutes, I was on a ventilator, and they said I probably wouldn’t make it,” Fox said.
The medical team didn’t realize that she was in septic shock — a condition where the body’s reaction to infection damages the organs. At that point, she had bacterial pneumonia that had led to a collapsed lung and failing kidneys.
Her situation was desperate enough that a priest was brought in for last rites, with the hospital staff believing she wouldn’t make it through Tuesday night.
“But by the grace of God, I did,” she told Fox News.
To save her life, however, they had to give her vasopressor drugs — which can squeeze blood from organs in the extremities to save internal organs vital for life.
“The doctors told my family they should prepare for the loss of some fingers or toes because they were pulling so much from my extremities to try to keep my organs alive,” Fox said.
“It was touch and go for the next week.”
So touch and go, in fact, that despite the influx of COVID-19 patients in the early days of the pandemic, she remained the most critical patient in the hospital.
First, doctors were forced to amputate her legs below her knees on March 27. Then, the infection also began taking her arms, “but they waited and didn’t take my arms until April 6, almost two weeks later,” amputating just below the elbow.
All this time, she was in a medically induced coma, and when she came out, she said, “I was so confused. I was still on a ventilator. I had no idea what was going on in the world [with COVID].”
However, she steadily improved to the point where she was released from the hospital on May 17. “They literally wrapped me like a mummy because I didn’t want my kids to see. I hadn’t told them yet about losing my arms and legs,” she said.
Ohio woman who lost all four limbs to flu complications speaks out to raise awareness
For most people, getting the flu means a few days of sickness and then a return to regular life. But for Kristin Fox, a 42-year-old mother and high-school principal in Ohio, the virus led… pic.twitter.com/Ewbakh1rfy
— Eric Thompson (@isearch247) November 13, 2023
Then began rehab, along with some setbacks (her lung collapsed again, for instance). She got prosthetics for her arms and legs. (She now says she doesn’t “use the arms at all. I’ve learned to live without them — it’s easier.”)
“It was a huge learning curve,” she said. “It was like trial and error of what worked and what didn’t.”
One of the biggest steps, in fact, was getting back behind the wheel, telling WKBN-TV that “once she was able to show she can walk, the next step was to get her driver’s license.
“Kristin said the process brought her back to being 16,” the station noted.
And, after a year, she was able to go back to her day job: assistant principal of a high school.
“I mentally had to go back to work,” she said. “I’m a very ‘go, go, go’ type of person. And if I went out on disability, I was not going to have a good quality of life.”
“I had a lot of young eyes watching me, and I knew there were so many kids who would learn so much from my reaction to this,“ she added.
It’s good that she remains a fighter, but her experience is a reminder that this kind of thing can happen to anyone — even a healthy young-ish woman who had received her flu jab. The only luck is that this happened right before COVID and everything aside from treating the pandemic seemed to shut down.
Just a reminder: If you feel extremely ill, it’s probably because you are — and you need to be evaluated. Septic shock from the flu is extremely rare, so we generally shouldn’t panic, but you know your health, and you likely know when something is very wrong. A healthy reminder as we enter yet another flu season.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.