Kevin Breen, 44, a dad from Michigan lost his feet and hands due to a rare contagion of strep throat. The father of three got to the hospital complaining of ordinary stomach pains, but it turns out it was much worse.

It all started on Christmas day when he was feeling particularly tired and ill. He went to the hospital, and nobody seemed to know what was happening to him. They found out that he had a strange and mortal case of strep throat, which had affected his organs. Now he is a whole different person.

Kevin Breen, 44, contracted an extremely rare case of strep throat that nearly killed him. Image Credit: Courtesy of the Breen family

“They opened him up and found 1 ½ liters of infected pus in his abdominal region,” Julie Breen, his wife said. “We met with the surgeon after surgery and she sat us down and said, ‘I’ve never seen this before and I don’t like it. I don’t know what it is”

Doctors didn’t know what Kevin had

The first symptoms of Kevin’s illness appeared last year when he told his wife that he was feeling achy and tired. The Grand Rapids resident kept on saying he was ill and two days after that, his symptoms had taken a new form, a razor-sharp stomach pain that was so intense that Kevin was not able to walk or move.

His 33-year-old wife, Julie Breen decided to take him to the emergency room when he was tested for strep throat and the flu, but the tests came back negative. Therefore, Kevin was sent back home with a prescription for nausea medication and painkillers to minimize the pain for a couple of days. However, medicines didn’t work at all. Kevin felt worse the day after that. He said to Julie they had to come back to the hospital.

Kevin: “Something just wasn’t right.”

Kevin was no stranger to abdominal pain for he had been through appendicitis. He knew something wasn’t right; this new condition was completely different to a regular stomachache.

After 24 hours waiting in the hospital, he got admitted, and they took Breen into an exploratory surgery after deciding that an ulcer break inside him. What they found was shocking for the doctors. Kevin had 1 ½ liters of infected pus in his abdominal region. It was something that physician Elizabeth Steensma – an acute care surgeon at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids – hadn’t seen before.

Steensma said that these kind of infections in the abdominal region are rare. Such a quantity of pus in the abdomen is usually due to a perforated organ. However, they couldn’t find any holes. That puzzled the doctors, who couldn’t explain the high amount of pus.

The direst situation

They took a sample of the material to the microbiology lab, and it confirmed that Kevin, indeed, had contracted strep throat, but unfortunately for him, it wasn’t the typical strain of the bacteria but a rare and mortal version.

According to Steensma, his infection is especially strong and Kevin’s body was unable to fight it back. His bacteria had gone from the throat to the abdominal area. This kind of cases is so unusual that it had only been registered in 32 other cases, most of them involving women.

“It’s estimated that there are over 1 million cases per year, and this is only the second case that has ever been reported of strep traveling from a male patient’s throat to his stomach,” Steensma said.

Kevin: “You’re never prepared to hear those words from a doctor.”

Breen’s battle was just about to begin. His infection had caused him a severe septic shock, and his body start shutting down. Doctors said to Julie that his husband might not survive. Kevin said he wasn’t ready to hear that.

“He had multi-system organ failure and needed a ventilator,” she said. “He had renal failure and acute kidney injury and liver injury and abnormalities in coagulation of his blood clotting,” said Doctor Steensma.

As well, his blood pressure was terribly low and required high doses of three medications to stabilize it. Though the drugs maintained him alive, they produced a side effect; the medication was shutting off blood to his extremities leading to necrosis, which means that the tissues of the hands and feet died.

He went through several surgeries, and by the end of January he was released from the intensive care unit and was sent to an acute rehab hospital. This week, he went to the first of four surgeries to amputate his feet, his left hand and many fingers of his right hand off.

A GoFundMe page that aims to help Kevin and his family has raised more than $90,000 in less than three weeks. The money will be used to cover medical costs and to help Kevin in his new life without extremities. He said he is not going to let this situation lead him down. Kevin is not longer employed and his wife is now the sole breadwinner of the family. Kevin wishes to water ski again; it is his passion.

Source: The Washington Post