A Sydney socialite has shared her story of near death situation following a mosquito bite on a trip to Nigeria resulting in being struck down with malaria so serious she had to have her limbs amputated in order to live.
Stephenie Rodriguez, 52, endured an 18-month nightmare when she contracted cerebral malaria from a mosquito bite in Lagos, Nigeria.
The digital entrepreneur was speaking at a business gathering of travel executives who invited her for a photo shoot next to a pool of stagnant water. It was there that Ms Rodriguez believes she was bitten three times by a mosquito on her left ankle. During her trip she had conscientiously doused herself in insect repellent, after she suffered a bad reaction from an anti-malarial drug in the past.
Days later after flying to India, Ms Rodriguez began to feel tired and exhausted – something she described as ‘out of character’, but put down to jet-lag’.
Her next stop was Boston, in the US but her trip was abruptly cut short when she was rushed to hospital after struggling to eat and drink what an infectious diseases specialist confirmed Ms Rodriguez, had cerebral Malaria just twenty hours later, but by then she had fallen into a coma.
Doctors gave her a two per cent chance of survival after Artesunate – a drug used to treat severe malaria – sent her into septic shock and organ failure. 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,’ she said.
‘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.’
The drugs caused her feet and hands to blacken from necrosis and at one point she witnessed her own toe fall off into her hand.
‘It was horrible, absolutely horrible. Completely unimaginable,’ she said reflecting on the traumatic moment.
After being airlifted back to Australia, doctor’s advised Ms Rodriguez would have to undergo an above the knee amputation along with several fingers.
Horrified by the thought she held off on the procedure, instead undergoing multiple skin grafts and surgeries to see if her condition would improve.
Eventually, she had to have her remaining toes amputated and slowly came to the realisation she couldn’t put it off any longer.
Wheelchair bound and unable to stand from unbearable pain, Ms Rodriguez 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. Titanium rods are now fused into her shin bones.