UK father loses limbs to 'cold' that was flesh-eating bug

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A fit 34-year-old British father had to have both legs and an arm amputated after what appeared to be a common cold turned out to be a flesh-eating bug.

Alex Lewis went to bed one night feeling a little under the weather. He thought he had a minor virus but that he would feel fine after a few days.

But within hours, the full-time father was in hospital fighting for his life - and doctors even warned his partner that she should say her goodbyes.

They discovered Mr Lewis had blood poisoning caused by a type of bacteria most people harbour on their skin but is usually dealt with by the immune system.

After the Streptococcus A bacteria got into Mr Lewis's blood, it caused his major organs to shut down and started killing skin and muscle tissue. Doctors at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester gave him a one-in-30 chance of surviving - but he pulled through.

Four months after the incident, Mr Lewis has undergone numerous operations at Salisbury Hospital to amputate gangrenous limbs and attempts to rebuild his right arm.

He has also suffered facial disfiguration.

Despite his ordeal, Mr Lewis, from Stockbridge, Hampshire, said: "In a strange way, it is the most amazing thing I have ever lived through.

"I think nothing but good will come from it. I think you cope because you have to. If you don't, you will probably die."

He hopes he will one day be fitted with 'blade runner' legs, and dreams of walking once more in the countryside with his partner Lucy Townsend, son Sam, three, and labrador Holly.

Ms Townsend, a pub landlord, said: "All Alex's internal organs broke down so he was straight on dialysis. His kidneys were the first to stop, then his lungs, his kidneys and his heart followed.

"Everything was shutting down, so when we got to intensive care the doctors basically said to me, "Go and say goodbye."?"

Such infections are uncommon and those causing serious problems are rarer still. The condition is usually treated with injections of antibiotics.

- Mail On Sunday

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