In a devastating turn of events, a Texas man named Michael Kohlhof lost both of his arms and part of his feet due to a single flea bite. It all began when Michael experienced a loss of sensation in his toes and flu-like symptoms, prompting him to seek emergency care in San Antonio. Little did he know that he was about to face a life-threatening ordeal.
Michael quickly deteriorated and went into septic shock, landing him in the intensive care unit (ICU). Within just 24 hours, his organs started failing rapidly, and medical interventions like a ventilator, dialysis, antibiotics, vasopressors, and multiple IV medications were administered to keep him alive.
As his condition worsened, his family was called to say their goodbyes, fearing that he might not make it through. Michael’s brother, Greg, revealed that Michael almost died once or twice during this critical period.
Despite the dire situation, Michael remarkably survived, thanks to 11 days of intense medical support. On July 1, he was taken off the ventilator and sedation, but the consequences were severe: his hands and feet developed dry gangrene due to the vasopressor treatment, ultimately leading to the necessity of multiple limb amputations.
The cause of Michael’s ordeal was traced back to an extremely rare type of typhus, contracted from a single flea bite. Doctors revealed that this particular type of typhus is not common in the United States and usually occurs in tropical and subtropical climates. Flea-borne typhus can cause severe illness and damage to organs like the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain if left untreated.
Unfortunately, Michael didn’t exhibit symptoms until it was too late, and the gangrene had become untreatable. His hands had to be amputated up to the forearms, and half of his feet also had to be removed to prevent the further spread of infection.
Despite the devastating loss of his hands, which were vital to his passion as an art lover, volunteer, handyman, and part-time pet sitter, Michael’s family remains optimistic about his future. They believe that his resilience and strength of mind will help him find new avenues to pursue his interests and lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges he now faces.