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By Chen Jingwen
Mar 20, 2017
It's just a nasty little bug that can be fixed by a course of antibiotics.
But for one man, his strep throat infection was so devastating that it cost him his hands and feet, and nearly his life.
Kevin Breen, 44, an insurance agent from Michigan, experienced mysterious flu-like symptoms on Christmas Day last year, which worsened with a piercing pain in his tummy. It became so bad that he was unable to walk.
The normally healthy and active man had to be admitted to hospital where his stomach ballooned and hardened.
As he developed signs of shock, doctors whisked him to the surgery room where they discovered one and a half litres of pus surrounding his organs, reported The Washington Post.
After more checks and lab tests, they finally found he had streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, a severe and rare illness associated with a streptococcal infection.
"That strep organism, that is really common, somehow that went from his pharynx in his throat and made its way into his abdominal cavity," Dr. Elizabeth Steensma, an acute care surgeon at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital told CNN.
The missing piece of the puzzle was found when Dr Steensma learned that Breen's son had recently contracted strep throat and passed it on to his dad.
But it was no help. By then, Breen's condition had taken a turn for the worse. He went into multi-system organ failure and and needed to be placed on a ventilator.
Doctors frantically worked to save his life.
The team "worked around the clock minute by minute for the next several days trying to keep him alive and get him home to his family," Dr Steensma said.
She told CNN: "He had renal failure and acute kidney injury and liver injury and abnormalities in coagulation of his blood clotting. His blood pressure was so profoundly low, he pretty much required maximum doses of three medications to maintain it."
"He was fighting for his life," she said her patient's kidneys had begun to shut down and he required a continual dose of antibiotics.
Although Breen's recovery was amazing, doctors were unable to save his fingers and toes.
Dr Steensma said Breen's severe case of septic shock, the toxins from the strep organism, as well as the medications he was given, led to the need to amputate parts of his feet and hands.
According to a GoFundMe page set up to help raise funds to settle his hospital bills, Breen will require four operations: complete amputation of his left hand, amputation of multiple fingers on the right, and partial amputation of both his feet.
But Breen and his family are just thankful he was brought back from the brink of death.
He told CNN: "We're just very grateful for all the prayers and all the support we've been getting from our families, friends and our church."
Keeping a positive attitude, Breen said he hopes to receive prosthetic limbs and go water skiing again.
He told The Washington Post: "That was a huge passion of mine. I may not be able to do it at the same level, but just getting out there would be special."