A single flea bite has cost a Texas man both of his arms and part of his feet, his family said.
Michael Kohlhof was rushed to a San Antonio emergency room last month after losing feeling in his toes and suffering from what his family initially believed to be severe flu symptoms, his mother wrote in a GoFundMe.
Soon after, the 35-year-old man went into septic shock and was rushed into the ICU.
Within 24 hours, Kohlhof was put on a ventilator, dialysis, antibiotics, vasopressors and numerous IV medications to keep him alive as his organs began rapidly failing.
“By the end of June 20, I was told to call immediate family to come from all parts of the country to say their goodbyes,” mom J’Leene Hardaway wrote. Kohlhof’s brother Greg told KENS5 that his sibling “almost died once or twice.
“They were worried about him being brain dead,” Greg said. It took another 11 days of intense medical assistance, but Kohlhof miraculously pulled through and was taken off the ventilator and sedation on July 1 — but not without severe physical consequences.
According to Hardaway, Kohlhof’s hands and feet developed dry gangrene as a result of the vasopressor treatment — one of the many medications that saved his life.
The cause of Kohlof’s sepsis and quick decline was pinpointed to typhus, which stemmed from a single bite from a flea.
“He was the victim of a severe and traumatic bite from one single flea,” Hardaway said.Doctors told the family that the type of typus Kohlhof suffered is extremely rare in the US.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flea-borne typhus occurs in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, including areas of the United Stateflea bit nys — namely southern California, Hawaii and Texas.
“Untreated [typhus] can cause severe illness and damage to one or more organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain,” the CDC warns.
Typically, people bitten by infected fleas seek medical help after finding a swelling or a rash around the bite mark, but Greg said his brother didn’t experience any symptoms until it was too late.
Kohlhof’s gangrene was beyond treatment and doctors were forced to amputate both his hands up to his forearms as well as half of his feet earlier this week. If he had waited another 48 hours, “he would have not made it,” his partner Alishpa Masood told KHOU11.
According to his brother, Kohlhof is from Houston and had only been in San Antonio to help take care of his mother as she recovered from foot surgery.
Kohlhof is a volunteer, a handyman, an art lover and part-time pet sitter whose passions tragically center around his hands.
“Me and him talked about it. It’s not your hands that do all these great things. It’s your mind,” Greg told his brother.
“You’ll just have to find a new avenue to exercise it.”