When most of us think of situations which could lead to losing a limb, extreme scenarios usually come to mind. I almost lost a finger when I was a kid after an attempt at feeding a horse a carrot went very, verywrong. Unfortunately, it thought my little fingers were a part of the snack and nearly pulled them clean off my hand. I’ve even got tooth-shaped scars to prove it.
My younger sister nearly lost a limb too – and it was also under extreme circumstances. She took a tumble on an ice rink and another skater mowed over her hand. It was a miracle that she only had to get stitches after the accident. But one man who actually lost limbs, Greg Manteufel, did so in the most innocuous way possible – after his beloved pet dog licked him.
Greg, who is from Wisconsin, fell ill shortly after he was licked by his pet pit bull, but he brushed off his symptoms as nothing more than the flu. However, when they worsened, it soon became apparent that something a lot more serious was going on.
The avid biker’s wife, Dawn, told Fox 6, that the then-mysterious illness “hit him with a vengeance” causing him to suffer from “bruising all over.” The bruising was so extreme that he was left looking “like somebody beat him up with a baseball bat.”
Then, just a week after being licked by his pooch, Greg had to have both of his legs and nose amputated.
Dawn, of West Bend, Wisconsin, said, “We can’t wrap our heads around it that all of the sudden, he’s 48 years old and been around dogs all of his life… and this happens.”
Horrifyingly, the affectionate lick from his pooch caused Greg to come into contact with the capnocytophaga bacteria, and he subsequently developed sepsis and lost blood circulation throughout his body.
Even though Greg never had a wound, the bacteria is found in dogs’ saliva. However, medics have said that it’s extremely rare for a person to develop sepsis from capnocytophaga when they have not been bitten.
Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, a Wisconsin infectious disease expert, made a point of saying to Fox 6 that, “More than 99 percent of the people who have dogs will never have this issue.” He then added, “It’s just chance.”
After Greg lost blood circulation, doctors had no option but to amputate his legs and nose in an attempt to save his life.
Referring to this drop in blood pressure, Dr. Munoz-Price said, “Sometimes it decreases so much that the arms and legs just die.”
While capnocytophaga can, in rare cases, be a deadly bacteria, its presence in the saliva of 60% of dogs and 17% of cats is, as Dr. Munoz pointed out, usually harmless. What happened to Greg was a freak occurrence.
There have only been 500 incidents of non-bite contact causing sepsis in humans in the US and Canada since 1976.
Recalling the tragic incident, Dawn continued, “[He] kept saying to the doctors – ‘Take what you need but keep me alive.’ And they did it. Surprisingly enough, they did do it.”
However, because Greg is now a double amputee, his life has changed beyond recognition. Since he contracted the illness in late June, Dawn is doing everything in her power to help him get prosthetic legs so that he can walk again.
To help achieve this, she has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for prosthetic limbs and plastic surgery on Greg’s nose.
Jason Marchand, the page’s creator, wrote, “Greg has held his head high and is taking all the news like a beast. He is so thankful to be alive today and is taking one day at a time.”
While losing limbs from being licked by a dog is unquestionably very rare, it is not so rare for it to happen from engaging in a number of other innocuous activities – as this dad learned when he had a water fight with his kids.
Fifty-nine-year-old Philip Pike from England sustained a small injury when he fell into a rose bush during the water fight, and like Greg, he initially assumed that there was nothing seriously wrong with him as he only had scratches.
But it soon transpired that he’d contracted necrotizing fasciitis – a serious flesh-eating bacterial infection which can develop from something as small as a scratch. It affects the tissue beneath a person’s muscles and can lead to blood poisoning and organ failure.
Things then got so bad for Philip that he ended up in a coma for two weeks and he had to have parts of his fingers, toes, and buttocks amputated. He also had to have a pacemaker installed and learn how to walk again.
Philip, however, was comparatively lucky, as one in five people who develop necrotizing fasciitis die from the disease.
So if you ever start to feel unwell, or sustain a cut or a bruise that’s causing symptoms that just don’t make sense, it’s probably a good idea to visit the emergency room. While the odds of you losing a limb – or worse, your life – are extremely slim, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and, as my grandmother so often put it, your health really is your wealth.