Australian doctors have amputated the feet of a 52-year-old socialite, Stephenie Rodriguez, after she contracted cerebral malaria following mosquito bites during her visit to Nigeria.
In a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, Rodriguez narrated how she got her feet amputated and endured an 18-month nightmare when she contracted cerebral malaria from a mosquito bite after visiting Lagos, state.
The single mother and digital entrepreneur disclosed that she had visited Lagos in 2019 to speak at a business gathering for travel executives. According to her during the gathering, she and the invited guests were asked to assemble outside for a photo shoot next to a pool of stagnant water and while she was there she got bitten three times by mosquitoes on her left ankle.
Rodriguez said she doused herself with enough insect repellant because she came to Nigeria with it but did not take any anti-malaria drugs because of the negative effect of such drugs when she took one sometime back.
”The organisers asked me to go outside for a photo shoot with delegates. They had drones, it was filmed next to a pool of stagnant water. It was sunset. That’s when I believe I was bitten three times by a mosquito on my left ankle” she narrative
She said Days later after flying to India, she began to feel tired and unwell but dismissed the feeling, describing it as ‘out of character’ and ‘compound jet-lag’. Rodriguez said when she got to Boston that she had to be rushed to an hospital after she took ill at the airport and was struggling to eat and drink.
She was rushed to the Massachusetts General Hospital where an infectious diseases specialist confirmed that Rodriguez had cerebral malaria. But she had gone into a coma. The doctors confirmed that, Rodriguez had only a two percent chance of survival after she had taken Artesunate – a drug used to treat severe malaria – sent her into septic shock and organ failure.
In a desperate effort to save her life, doctors used vasopressor drugs to redirect blood flow from her limbs to her vital organs.
“It was the last trick in the bag, and they cautioned my family that if I survived, there would be collateral damage. The vasopressors robbed my feet and hands, the things furthest from my heart, of blood and like frostbite, the areas without blood and oxygen began to die.” she said
The impact of the drugs caused her feet and hands to blacken from necrosis and at one point saw her own toe fall off into her hand.
She said, “It was horrible, absolutely horrible. Completely unimaginable”.
After Rodriguez was airlifted back to Australia, doctors advised that she would have to undergo an above-the-knee amputation along with several fingers. Horrified by the thought, Rodriguez said she held off on the procedure and instead, chose to undergo multiple skin grafts and surgeries to see if her condition would improve.
The patient saw that eventually, she had to have her remaining toes amputated and slowly came to the realization she couldn’t put it off any longer.
Rodriguez became wheelchair-bound and unable to stand from unbearable pain. She underwent drastic surgery to have both feet amputated and replaced with above-ankle bilateral osseointegrated implants and mechanical feet.
“It’s bizarre, but I had to cut my feet off to walk again,” she said.
Attached to the ends of each rod via an allen key are a pair of prosthetic feet that now allow Rodriguez to move freely again.
But after thirty-six surgeries, Rodriguez is the first woman in Australia to receive the implants and mechanical feet which was developed by Australian professor, Munjed Al Muderis. The Iraqi who became a leading surgeon of robotic limbs convinced her that giving up her blackened dead feet was her only hope of walking again.
Rodriguez celebrated a recent achievement of being able to walk in a pair of 4cm kitten heels again. This following 36 surgery and hours of painful rehabilitation
“I never really felt ‘dressed’ until I had a pair of killer heels on; the higher, the better. That’s just the sort of girl I was… still am,” she said.