Six years ago, Alex Lewis, 37, from Hampshire, England, was a stay-at-home dad looking after his young son Sam while his partner Lucy ran a pub. When he caught a cold, he dismissed it as nothing but the flu. But it turned out to be a life-threatening illness – it was a streptococcal infection that gave him blood poisoning and multiple organ failure.
Alex was unfortunate enough to have a very rare reaction to this bacterial infection. “We all carry streptococcus A in our throats”, Alex explains in the recent British TV documentary Body Bizarre, “But once in a blue moon, someone reacts in a way which triggers toxic shock and leads to sepsis. It’s one in around 10 million people, and that was me.”
Alex was given only a 3% chance of surviving, but he miraculously pulled through, albeit with a heavy price to pay. Both of his arms and legs had to be amputated, and part of his face was eaten away by the infection. He has had a microchip implanted in the stump of his left arm (with the same technology used in pet microchips) which gives him back some of his independence, as it enables him to open the front door of his home and the door of his car. It will eventually contain all of his medical records, in case he ever needs to be rushed to the hospital.
Together with his partner, Alex has set up a charitable trust fund to raise the £180,000 he will need for up-to-the-minute computerized prosthetic legs with joints, which will be life-changing in terms of the mobility they will give him.
Alex has been able to come to terms with losing his limbs, now that he is using prosthetics, but the facial disfigurement was harder to cope with.
He recalls: “When I had the first skin graft, it caused my mouth to shrink to the size of around a 1p coin [around 1 cent, in US money]. That was very hard for my son to understand and accept, and he was reluctant to come near me and cuddle me. It was awful to lose that connection with him, however briefly.”
After facial reconstruction surgery, Alex has had his lips tattooed to give them a realistic natural-looking color and is very pleased with the results.
“The difference it has made from the first surgery to now is incredible,” he says, remaining remarkably positive about everything he has gone through. “There are people living with far worse than what I had to endure. And as a family, we are stronger now.”
Image credit: www.goodtoknow.com