How Strep Throat Complications Led To The Amputation Of This Father’s Hands And Feet

When 44-year-old Kevin Breen, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, went to an urgent care center with flu-like symptoms and stomach pain on Dec. 27, 2016, he and his family could never imagine what was next.

After being sent home and given pain medication, he kept getting worse. Initial tests for strep throat and the flu came back negative, so exploratory surgery was performed after doctors suspected a ruptured ulcer. Instead of finding an ulcer, they found 1.5 liters of infected puss.

“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,’” Kevin’s wife, Julie Breen told the Washington Post. “’I don’t know what it is.’”

The puss later turned out to be strep infection. That’s right—the strep infection we commonly know as “strep throat.” This was, however, not the typical strain. It was an extremely rare version that would nearly kill Kevin and eventually lead to multiple amputations.

“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 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told CNN.

Kevin is now home from the hospital, but still has surgeries left: amputation of his left hand, amputation of multiple fingers on his right hand and partial amputation of both feet. The tissues in his hands are feet died because in order to keep his blood pressure up (which was needed for the medications he was on), doctors had to stop blood flow to his extremities.

GoFundMe/Team Breen

So, just how rare is this type of infection?

Breen’s doctors said he is only the second documented male in the world this has happened to and Steensma says there are only two other cases like it in medical literature. Regardless, it is important to be aware of your body and know when something is really wrong.

While there are multiple causes of a sore throat, if it is strep, there will be symptoms not associated with a cold or virus. Symptoms of strep throat include:

– A fever of 101 degrees F or higher
– Swollen lymph nodes on your neck
– Little red spots on the back part of the roof of your mouth
– Red and swollen tonsils and possible white patches on them or in your throat
– Headache, sometimes with stomach pain or vomiting

If you have a sore throat that is accompanied by a rash that is hot and tender, you should immediately see a doctor.

“If you notice that your arm or leg or another part of your body is getting warm and red and swollen you see a doctor—the earlier the better,” Dr. Neil Fishman, an infectious diseases specialist and professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told TODAY.

Anyone diagnosed with a strep infection should take antibiotics immediately. The antibiotics will help knock out the infection and make it less likely that you’ll develop complications.

GoFundMe/ Team Breen

A GoFundMe page has been created for the Breen family. The goal is to raise $200,000 to help with medical expenses. Kevin also hopes to receive prosthetic limbs and one day be able to water ski again.