An Ohio woman was hospitalized for more than 80 days and had all four limbs partially amputated after catching a severe infection from dog saliva, according to KTLA sister station WJW in Cleveland.
The last thing Marie Trainer says she remembers is feeling sick and lying down on the couch. The Stark County wife and mother woke up from a coma 10 days later with both arms and legs partially amputated.
“When I opened my eyes I didn’t know where I was,” Trainer said. “It was very hard to find out that they had to remove my legs and my arms … very hard to cope with.”
Trainer and her husband, Matthew, had just returned home from a vacation in the Caribbean.
They thought Marie might have caught a flu because she felt nauseous and had a bad backache. But then her temperature spiked and plummeted.
“Her temperature went up, then went down to about 93 degrees,” Matthew said. “That’s when we rushed her to the hospital.”
Hospital staff began aggressive treatments, but within hours Marie was developing sepsis, and her condition continued to deteriorate.
“We were getting new symptoms and worsening symptoms very rapidly,” said Gina Premier, Marie’s stepdaughter and a nurse practitioner at the Canton hospital where she was treated.
Within a few days, Marie was placed in a medically induced coma as her limbs began turning necrotic and then gangrenous, Premier said.
Blood tests and cultures at both Aultman Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed the surprising diagnosis of capnocytophaga.
Capnocytophaga is a bacteria commonly found in the saliva of dogs and a smaller percentage of cats, according to Dr. Margaret Kobe, medical director of infectious disease at Aultman.
Kobe said it’s “fairly common” in dogs’ oral cavities and can be transmitted through a bite, or sometimes just contact with saliva.
“That organism is very virulent,” Kobe said. “It has the ability to induce your immune system to do some pretty horrible things.”
The Trainers have two dogs at home and suspect their saliva might have made contact with a small scrape on Marie’s arm.
The organism causes dozens of large blood clots that restrict blood flow, leading to necrosis and gangrene. Doctors repeatedly removed dozens of clots from Marie’s limbs, trying to save them, but too much damage was already done to the tissue.
Without the amputations, doctors told the family Marie would die.
“It was so rapid in progression … there was nothing they could do,” Premier said.
That type of severe reaction is very rare, affecting roughly one in a million people, according to Kobe.
It’s also unpredictable, she said. A person could be exposed to the bacteria and or dog for years without a reaction.
But the same year, a different patient in Ohio recovered, Kobe told WJW.
“Their immune system handled it differently,” she said.
Marie says she still loves dogs and doesn’t want to terrify owners. However, she and the doctor encourage people to be careful; Kobe says it’s a myth that dogs mouths are cleaner than humans.
People who suffer dog bites should go on antibiotics. If you notice redness or signs of infection after a canine interaction, seek medical treatment immediately.
The Trainers say they have no plans to get rid of their dogs.
Instead, they’re focused on Marie’s recovery. After eight surgeries and 80 days in the hospital, the hair stylist and salon owner will have to undergo intensive physical rehabilitation.
To help with the family’s medical expenses, loved ones set up a GoFundMe page.