Texas man loses his limbs after getting bit by a flea

A Texas man has suffered the devastating loss of both his arms and part of his feet after being bitten by a flea. Michael Kohlhof, 35, was initially rushed to a San Antonio emergency room after experiencing flu-like symptoms and losing feeling in his toes. However, his condition quickly deteriorated. He went into septic shock, leading to a life-threatening situation. Despite the odds, Kohlhof managed to survive but not without severe physical consequences. The cause of his decline was identified as typhus, a rare infection transmitted through the flea bite.

His family created a GoFundMe page to share his story, explaining that he lost feeling in his toes and was admitted to the ICU. Within 24 hours, his organs began failing, and he required a ventilator, dialysis, antibiotics, vasopressors, and various IV medications to keep him alive. His mother, J’Leene Hardaway, was even advised to gather immediate family members to say their goodbyes. However, after 11 days of intense medical assistance, Kohlhof miraculously pulled through.

Unfortunately, the lifesaving vasopressor treatment had unintended consequences. Kohlhof developed dry gangrene in his hands and feet, leading to the need for amputation. The vasopressor was one of the medications that saved his life, but it also caused severe physical damage. The family discovered that Kohlhof’s sepsis and rapid decline were a result of typhus, a rare form of the infection. Doctors informed them that this type of typhus is extremely uncommon in the United States.

Flea-borne typhus is typically found in tropical and subtropical climates, including certain areas of the United States such as southern California, Hawaii, and Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that untreated typhus can lead to severe illness and damage to multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. In most cases, individuals seek medical help after noticing swelling or a rash around the bite mark. However, Kohlhof reportedly did not experience any symptoms until it was already too late.

Because Kohlhof’s condition deteriorated so rapidly, doctors were left with no choice but to amputate both his hands up to his forearms and half of his feet. His partner, Alishpa Masood, revealed that if he had waited just 48 hours longer, he would not have survived. Kohlhof, originally from Houston, had been in San Antonio to care for his mother during her recovery from foot surgery at the time of his peculiar health scare. The road to recovery will undoubtedly be long and arduous, but with the support of his loved ones, Kohlhof is determined to adapt and overcome.