A DOG owner lost both of his legs after a tiny cut caused by playing with his dog led to him being struck down with sepsis. Jaco Nel was playing with his dog Harvey when he noticed a tiny cut on his hand.
Unbeknown to Mr Nel, he had been infected by a bacteria being carried in his dog’s saliva.
Two weeks later Mr Nel fell ill with Sepsis – a deadly illness which would cost him both his legs and all of the fingers on one hand.
Afflicted with gangrene, his face would never be the same again.
“It was tiny. I cleaned it and forgot about it.
“It was never infected locally or anything like that.”
Mr Nel, a psychiatrist who specialises in treating patients with dementia, was at work around two weeks later when he developed flu-like symptoms.
“My whole body was aching. I thought it was the flu so I went home to bed. I texted my partner and said I had the flu and was going to bed.
“The next day I was very ill and confused. I wasn’t able to ring work and that’s when my secretary started to worry.
Mr Nel before he contracted the deadly infection
“That’s when he called the paramedics and I was taken to hospital.”
The paramedics noticed Mr Nel had red blotches all over his skin – a symptom of Sepsis – and immediately started a course of antibiotics as they rushed him to hospital.
When they arrived at A&E, Mr Nel collapsed and was taken straight to the intensive care unit where he was placed in an induced coma.
Mr Nel’s kidneys began to fail and his legs and fingers turned black
The infection interferes with the body’s blood-clotting mechanism, with many smaller blood clots cutting off circulation to parts of the body and causing blood pressure to drop dangerously low.
In Mr Nel’s case, his kidneys started to fail and his legs started to turn black as gangrene set in.
He said: “I was lying there in hospital looking at my black, gangrenous legs and fingers.
“Even though the doctors had played it down, I knew how severe it was.”
Four months after being admitted to hospital Mr Nel had both his legs amputated below the knee.
He lost all fingers on his right hand and one on his left hand, and needed reconstructive surgery on his face.
Mr Nel’s Cocker Spaniel was carrying a deadly bacteria in his mouth
The hardest part has been accepting that I am now disfigured and that there is nothing I can do about it.
But the facial disfigurement he has suffered has been difficult to come to terms with.
He said: “I am very reluctant to go out because I am so self-conscious.
“While it hasn’t stopped me completely from living independently, it has damaged my confidence.
“The hardest part has been accepting that I am now disfigured and that there is nothing I can do about it.”
It meant the couple’s Cocker Spaniel, Harvey, was carrying the harmful bacteria in his saliva.
The findings eventually led to Mr Nel and Michael making the difficult decision to have Harvey put down.
He said: “It was very sad but we were worried about the dog infecting someone else.
“Luckily he was an older dog and was coming towards the end of his life.
“There were times when I was very angry and I blamed him.
It is now 18 months since Mr Nel, who moved from South Africa in 2001, contracted Sepsis.
And, while the psychiatrist is still coming to terms with his life-changing injuries, he has been touched by rays of hope.
He said: “My friendships have become much stronger as a result of what happened to me.
“I think I have a lot more to give to my patients in terms of empathy and understanding. I know what it’s like to be close to death and to have a disability.
“There’s something in me that I need to share and help people. I hope to eventually show people it is possible to overcome so much in life.”