How this woman's strep throat infection lead to amputation

Erica Rae Chong

WARNING: This story contains graphic images

{Photo: Shelby Smith)
{Photo: Shelby Smith)

When Shelby Smith got strep throat, she treated it just like any other throat infection. But the Tennessee woman never thought a sore throat would send her to the emergency room.

“I started shaking and convulsing and my lips started turning blue and my eyes were rolling in the back of my head,” she told ABC’s “Little did I know, I was going into septic shock.”

Smith’s throat began closing up and her organs started failing. She was put into a medically induced coma for a week but when she woke up her fingers and toes were black and blue due to a lack of blood circulation. She had to have her left index finger, two left toes and multiple fingers on her right hand amputated.

Smith had a very rare form of strep throat caused by very aggressive bacteria which caused her to go into septic shock.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.”

This form of strep is not contagious and cases of this are rare. There are only a few hundred such cases each year in the US, said Dr. Jeffry King, one of Smith’s doctors.

A similar case happened to a man in Michigan last week.

(Photo: Kevin Breen)
(Photo: Kevin Breen)

According to CNN, Kevin Breen also developed a rare strep throat infection.

After experiencing flu-like symptoms, he got stomach pains. When they did not improve, he made a trip to the emergency room. While there, his stomach began to enlarge and harden and when doctors took him into surgery to find out the cause of his problems, they found three litres of pus surrounding his organs.

Blood was redirected to save essential functions and organs, leaving the periphery of his body drained, which caused his fingers and toes to turn black and require amputation.

Kevin Breen's foot
(Photo: Kevin Breen)

“That strep organism, that is really common, somehow that went from his pharynx in his throat and made its way into his abdominal cavity,” said Dr. Elizabeth Steensma, Breen’s doctor. “As [strep] travels through the body, it can set up housekeeping, if you will, in various locations in the body and cause damage at those locations.”

Both Breen and Smith are in recovery and are simply happy to be alive.

“[I can] either buckle under the pressure or I can pick myself up and make a new normal,” said Smith.

Although both cases are rare, it’s important to remember to visit your doctor if you aren’t feeling well. What might appear as a run of the mill illness may turn out to be much more severe.

What do you think of Breen and Smith’s story? Let us know by tweeting us @YahooStyleCA.