M. Lee Fleming

Featured, Survivor

My name is Lee and I’m a dog attack victim and a sepsis and septic shock survivor. I’m also a “DIC” and dry gangrene survivor. I have trouble comprehending why I am so blessed! (Sepsis and Animal Bites, Sepsis and Septic Shock, Sepsis and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)

My story began on Christmas Day, 2021 on a normal, daily walk with my wife and my two dogs through our neighborhood park. It was a beautiful, exceptionally warm Christmas in North Carolina when we left the house around 4:00pm. We strolled down through the park toward the water and as we made our normal turn to head back to our house, it happened:

An unleashed pit bull charged us out of the water and attacked myself and my two dogs. This all could have been prevented so easily, but an irresponsible dog owner has changed my life forever! She somehow avoided me and my Great Pyrenees, but latched on to my German Shepard from underneath his throat and would not let go! I, along with my wife, went mid-evil on the pit bull and fought her for at least 10-15 minutes before she finally released our dog! Our boy survived just barely as the full puncture marks just missed his jugular vein! Our initial fear was we contracted rabies and the owners were not cooperative in providing any vet. documentation.

Now the journey begins:

4 days and a few hours later, immediately after dinner, I fell “violently ill”. I became extremely weak and suffered extreme “chills and shakes” that just wouldn’t stop. I was barely able to climb my stairs to our bedroom to alert my wife. She was immediately taken aback and shocked at my sudden on-set condition! She tried to warm and comfort me to no avail. We called my general physician first thing the following morning. He instructed me to come in for a Covid and a flu culture thinking it was the Omicron variant, but my wife saved my life by calling paramedics and insisting something besides Covid was to blame. We forgot about the dog attack momentarily due to the sudden shock of this unknown illness, but after 28 hours in the ER, she was finally able to see me after negative tests came back on the aforementioned possibilities; she alerted the ER doctors to the K-9 attack and they immediately started intravenous antibiotics.

I had contracted an extremely rare and deadly bacteria from the K-9 saliva and scratches. I was never bitten by the dog! The medical term is “Capnocytophaga Canimorsus or dog licking disease”. This threw me into sepsis, then septic shock and kidney and liver failure! (Sepsis and Kidney Failure)

When I came to in the ICU, my first thought was that I was going to lose both legs to whatever was going on. I didn’t understand anything at this point, but I was adamant that the dog was the culprit. The only specialist that believed this was true was the gastroenterologist/liver Sspecialist. I spent 9 days in ICU/telemetry before demanding to be released due to Omicron hospitalization wave that had filled the hospital and care was diminished! Both feet were overcome with “dry gangrene, apparently better than wet hangrene”, but needless to say so painful and crippling that I can not explain!

My gangrenous feet and toes worsened over the next 2-3 weeks after leaving the hospital, but I continued my care with my vascular surgeon. (She was so patient!!!!) I thought if I was even able to heal and that was at least 6 months down the healing road, that I may never walk again or be able to take care of myself! She saved both legs, feet and most of my toes! I ended up losing the first digits of my two smallest toes on my right foot, necrotic tissue on all of my toes as well as all of my toenails! My toes are also deformed (bent) from the trauma and can only be corrected from additional surgery. I will never walk normally again, But I am able to walk now and will continue to push the healing envelope! I am a walking, breathing, & alive “miracle” due to great care, great love and a great fighting spirit to live on!

I am so blessed and grateful and I can’t understand why! I know other people have suffered way more than I have and I have been given a second chance by God Almighty! I’m still trying to come to grips with what happened and forgive the people that perpetrated this grave injustice! I hope this story can give anyone who is suffering from any aspects of sepsis a hope and desire to keep fighting to survive!!!!! God Bless All!

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