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Michigan Man Losing Hands and Feet Over Common Infection
On December 27th, 2016 44-year-old Kevin Breen began to suffer flu-like symptoms and his stomach pain became unbearable
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kevin Breen is used to living an active lifestyle.
As a 44-year-old husband and father of three, he was always on the move, whether it was on one of many Michigan lakes or chasing after his children.
There were no signs of life slowing down.
But all of that changed on December 27th, 2016 when Breen began to suffer flu-like symptoms and his stomach pain became unbearable.
He went to an Urgent Care and was sent home with medication.
When he didn’t feel any better, he went to the emergency room and was immediately admitted.
“He was one of the sickest patients I have ever taken care of,” said Dr. Elizabeth Steensma, an acute care surgeon at Spectrum Health Butterworth.
Dr. Steensma told WOOD TV reporter Heather Walker Breen’s case at first, was a complete mystery.
His stomach was growing hard and a CT scan showed it was filling with pus.
Breen had exploratory surgery because doctors said he was showing signs of having a punctured organ or a ruptured ulcer, but Dr. Steensma said she could find no other signs of either one.
While they were searching for solution, Breen’s organs began shutting down and doctors told Breen’s wife, Julie, to prepare for the fact he may not survive.
“That moment was terrifying,” Julie Breen said to WOOD TV. “I just kind of lost it and stopped and prayed.”
Then, a clue.
Breen developed a rash on his upper torso and doctors ran another test.
The last thing they expected to find…came back positive.
It’s a bacterial infection that usually causes inflammation and pain in the throat.
Dr. Steensma said she found 32 cases of strep moving from the throat into the abdomen, but Breen is one of only two documented men in the world to have this condition.
Steensma and her team worked to keep Breen alive by giving him high doses of medication to help keep his blood pressure up and put him on dialysis to help filter his blood.
Once he was well enough, he went to an acute rehab hospital to regain his strength.
But Breen is still facing more challenges in the future.
“I never thought going in for a stomach ache and coming out a totally different person could happen,” he said to WOOD TV.
Doctors had to stop the blood flow to his extremities in order to keep him alive.
This lead to necrosis, which is the death of healthy tissue, and Breen’s fingers and feet have turned black.
Doctors said it will take four surgeries to amputate his left hand, multiple fingers of his right hand and partial amputation of both of his feet.
Family and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help Breen and his family deal with the medical side of his condition.
They said they are hoping to raise $75,000 by June 3rd where a group of family and friends will honor the Breens by participating in the Michigan Tough Mudder race.
It’s an event Breen is looking forward to and it gives him something to smile about.
He said his family is grateful to everyone, including his medical team, that have helped him recover.
Julie said she is anything but bitter.
“Life is forever going to be different, but different doesn’t necessarily have to be bad,” she said to WOOD TV. “We have to be positive.”
The Breens go on to say they are also grateful for the outpouring of support from friends, family and strangers who have heard Kevin’s story.
If you would like to help raise money for medical expenses, visit the Team Breen GoFundMe page by clicking here.
If you would like to participate in the Team Breen Michigan Tough Mudder race, click here.
If you want to see WOOD TV’s full story and watch video, click here.