Florida Woman Who Lost Arms, Legs During Birth Works for Answers

Sunday, May 20, 2007
Fox News

claudia-mejia.jpgSANFORD, Fla. — Claudia Mejia cannot give the hugs most mothers bestow on their children. Nor can she grab her 2-year-old son by the hand or place him on her lap. She cannot tuck her 9-year-old into bed or walk him to the school bus stop.

Motherhood for Mejia, 25, was redefined two years ago when a medical nightmare left her without arms and legs. She contracted a flesh-eating bacteria around the time she gave birth to her youngest son, Matthew, at South Seminole Hospital in Longwood forcing doctors to amputate her limbs to save her life.

The horror that began then still unfolds for the disfigured mother, who has pleaded with hospital officials for two years to turn her medical records over — something a judge just ordered.

She and her lawyers believe she either got the infection — “group A strep” — at the hospital or its doctors and nurses failed to quickly and properly treat it. They are suing the hospital and its parent company, Orlando Regional Healthcare System, seeking unspecified damages.

“I just want the truth,” Mejia said.

Orlando Regional, however, maintains Mejia’s infection was acquired elsewhere and that she was treated properly. In 187,000 births since 1988 at the nonprofit hospital system, comprised of seven medical facilities, Mejia is the only reported case of invasive group A strep, Jennings Hurt III, the hospital’s attorney, said.

“Thank God it’s rare,” Hurt said. “The hospital and everybody associated with the hospital have great sympathy for what happened to her. It’s truly tragic.”

Invasive group A strep infects about three people in every 100,000 in the United States each year, said Dr. Dennis Stevens, chief of the Infectious Disease Section at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. Of those, about a third reach the flesh-eating stage, named necrotizing fasciitis, that often requires amputation, he said. The flesh-eating stage, which destroys muscles, fat, and skin tissue, is fatal in 30 to 70 percent of its victims, Stevens said.

The three days following the April 28, 2005, birth of her son are troubling, Mejia said. After she checked into the Longwood hospital and gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 7 a.m., a fever set in, medical records show.

A nursing document reveals her temperature was high throughout the day, reading 100.6 degrees at one point. Shaking and chills soon followed, and Mejia complained of severe pain in her stomach and a burning sensation when she urinated — all signs of a potential infection, her attorney, Ron Gilbert, said.

The nurses and midwives deny Mejia ever reported any severe pain, Hurt said.

“A 100.6 temperature is very, very, very low grade,” Hurt said. “A person with group A strep with toxic shock syndrome has very high, spiking temperatures. Ms. Mejia’s symptoms were inconsistent with that.”

Diagnosing women with infection after childbirth can be a struggle, Stevens said.

“Doctors have to be able to read between the lines to know if this is the usual pain from just having had a baby or whether there is something else going on,” he said. “One of the hallmarks of these nasty group A strep infections is severe pain.”

As Mejia’s body tried to fight off the deadly bacteria, nurses treated her with minor painkillers Tylenol and ibuprofen, medical officials confirmed.

The hospital’s care was appropriate and reasonable, Hurt said.

The over-the-counter drugs, however, could not fight a disease commonly treated with an aggressive antibiotic regimen delivered intravenously.

The hospital began the process of discharging Mejia the following morning, but her then-boyfriend, Tim Edwards, complained.

“She’s too sick to come home,” he said. Mejia writhed in pain and began to vomit, still with nothing more than mild pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, Edwards said.

Doctors finally stepped in the next afternoon and ordered emergency surgery to remove her uterus, but the invasive bacteria had now entered her bloodstream. She went into toxic shock, her kidneys began to shut down and the blood flow to her arms and legs ceased, causing gangrene to set in, records show.

She was rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center where doctors informed her that she would die if her limbs were not amputated immediately.

“I wanted to die,” she said. “I really wanted to die. I couldn’t go on living without arms and legs.”

It was Edwards, 34, who spent an hour, racing against the clock, convincing her that she still had much to live for.

Edwards recounts his plea to his girlfriend of two years and the mother of his son: “Keep fighting. And when you’re able, marry me.”

Mejia said yes to life and marriage. Doctors amputated her legs above her knees, the left arm above the elbow and her right arm just below the elbow. Eight days later, Mejia and Edwards exchanged vows in the intensive care unit. She wears her wedding band on a chain around her neck.

Two years later, their love and family remain strong.

Edwards, a produce manager at Target in Sanford, begins each day at 4 a.m. He carries his wife, who without limbs weighs 84 pounds, and bathes her. Nine-year-old Jorge, a child from a previous relationship, cooks breakfast for the family — waffles “made with batter, not the kind you put in the toaster,” his mother points out.

At an awards ceremony at Crystal Lake Elementary in Sanford on Tuesday, proud tears streamed down Edward’s face as Jorge, a third grader there, received awards for good behavior and straight A’s.

Family suppers aren’t outdated either.

“We always eat dinner all together. It’s never apart,” Edwards said. “We’re a family united.”

Mejia has learned to brush her teeth, answer the telephone and surf the Internet. She eats by attaching a fork to a fabric band on her right arm above her elbow. She is motivated to walk again with the help of prosthetics.

Edwards asked her to remarry him last year on Christmas Eve.

“Next time she’s going to walk down the aisle,” he said.

Source: FOXNews.com

Photo: WESH.com

7 Responses to “Florida Woman Who Lost Arms, Legs During Birth Works for Answers”

  1. accessamerica Says:

    Why am I so bitter? Because I caught my Flesh Eating Bacteria in the Sanford FL Hospital in 2006 also,9 months of healing later, along with collateral damage that I will have the rest of my life because of a hospital with a record on having this bacteria present at that hospital.

    Just how may more will be infected at that hospital, makes you wonder if someone died from it there, they only ask the court for how many cases were treated there not if anyone died.

    My infection came after the judge ordered the hospital to give up the number of cases they had treated there.

    I feel so sorry for Mrs Mejia limbs being amputated, had that Sanford hospital acted faster and recognized the flesh eating bacteria sooner, and sent her to ORMC sooner she would have had a much better chance of maybe saving her limbs in my opinion.

    I am so lucky I did not to end up at the Sanford hospital for treatment when I notice something was wrong after having a procedure there a few weeks earlier, I was very fortunate to be run off by a nurse practitioner in the ER at the Sanford Hospital who saw nothing wrong and would not let me see a doctor, and I even requested to see one at the Sanford hospital, she stated that she is the one who decides who sees a doctor, word for word.

    The next day.
    I ended up at the (ORMC) Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando the same hospital Mrs Mejia was treated.
    They were able to stop the infection with massive doses of antibiotics and two emergency surgeries to remove gangrene skin.

    By now most of you are wondering were my flesh eating bacteria was?

    Well it was in my Scrotum area it had split wide open,from the gangrene ETC.
    What I can tell you is I do have a lawyer and that is about all I can tell you as of now.

    Another Victim

  2. flagranny2 Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your experience and can only imagine what all you have gone through.

    It is scary these days as it seems we all have to be our own advocate as no one else will stand up for us.

    I’m so glad you were fortunate enough and your flesh eating bacteria was caught in time, at least before too much damage as I know it could have been worse.

    I hope you have a good lawyer who is able to get you a decent settlement and one that you deserve. NO ONE should have to go thorugh what you did.

    I wish you the best and thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully your story will help someone.

    When you can, when your settlement is finalized I hope you will share with us the results. Not the monetary part but how it was handled so that others who might find themself in the same situation.

    Again, thanks so much and wishing you the very best.

  3. accessamerica Says:

    Well the hard part about suing any hospital in all of Florida is you need to have a third party doctor to sing off that we got that flesh eating bacteria in the hospital and that is the catch all,,, getting another doctor to sign off. ( an impossible feat)

    The state of Florida law makers passed this garbage to protect doctors and hospitals, look it up, some attorneys are getting out of the medical malpractice practice all together.
    Our law makers have turn the Florida hospitals into killing fields, and all well knowing they can at will be sloppy and careless almost with immunity from a lawsuit.

    I think in Claudia case the hospital was not cooperating with her and therefore sued the hospital.

    How it works is that within 30 days from a notice from an attorney for the records they have to produce a patients record, then after a review from an attorney and a doctors sign off that she or Me for that matter did in fact get the infection in that hospital, the attorney will then file a notice to file a lawsuit in 90 days..
    In those 90 days the hospital/doctors can either make and offer or just pass it along their insurance company to fight it out..

    The the Florida lawmakers has made so hard to sue that attorneys and the general public in Florida now have had there 7th SEVENTH AMENDMENT. CIVIL TRIALS. TRIAL BY JURY IN CIVIL CASES (taken Away by these low life law makers) or trample on..
    Now if there are any Attorneys out there that would like to jump in here you are welcome.
    Buy you can rest assure none will… there is nothing in it for them $$$$.
    so we the people once again get screwed!!
    and the Florida killing fields are open for business unscaved… and will be as sloppy as ever with these new laws in favor of them..
    I only wish Mrs Mejia gets her day in court and prevails, I am afraid that the laws are not in her favor, and only hope she had a doctor sing off that the hospital was the place she got the infection.
    What I can say for myself is I did not walk into that Sanford hospital with my infection, but you can rest assured I walk out with, and ending up at the ORMC were Mrs was treated… What does that tell Ya…a year later..I have not seen a hospital in years before that, and I did not go to a grocery store and buy a can of Flesh Eating Bacteria Soup.

    So am I bitter? I am down right furious that our rights have been taken away and advise all Florida residents to be very careful in these hospitals.
    Well I must go before I have a stroke over this injustice.
    Another Victim….

  4. flagranny2 Says:

    I sure wish there was some way you could get restitution. We all know that hospitals are well known as a place that breeds staph infections and now with the “Flesh Eating Bacteria”.

    I’m sure you can tell I’m in Florida “flagranny2” and I would like to offer a suggestion. I’m not sure that it will help but at least it is worth a shot.

    I once helped a patient, I’m not a nurse, get SSDI after her attorney had sat on her case for 2 years without any result. What I did was write to my congressman, and the one for my district was John Mica. Within 2 weeks I received a letter asking for the patient to sign papers that would allow him to view her records. From there it was within about a month and half that it went before the judge and approved.

    John Mica is a strong advocate for health care and has gone to bat for many. Just thought I would pass on this information.

    I wish you well and hope you are able to at least get some satisfaction and restitution for your suffering. I know nothing will truly compensate for what you have gone through.

  5. virginiabeddingfield Says:

    Is there some way to donate to this family. I know one of the biggest barriers to justice is money, or the lack of money. How can readers help?

  6. flagranny2 Says:

    Thanks for asking, I’ll check into this to see if there is anything we can do and I’ll let you know.

  7. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,520686,00.html « My Little Corner for Thoughts and Rants Says:

    […] Posts Florida Woman Who Lost Arms, Legs During Birth Works for AnswersAlabama Boy Kills 1,051-Pound Monster Pig, Bigger Than 'Hogzilla'News blips…….MySpace, Tiny sex […]

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