Man’s incredible story of surviving infection that left him quadruple amputee - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Published on December 17, 2015

Source: WGN tv

Man’s incredible story of surviving infection that left him quadruple amputee

By Dina Bair and Katharin Czink

It seems like an unbelievable story – a young, healthy man with flu like symptoms rapidly declines and ultimately needs a quadruple amputation. How could this happen? Doctors say it’s more common than you think. Rapid medical attention is the key to survival as Ethan Menges reveals in his incredibly journey.

Ethan Menges, amputee: “You can spiral down pretty quickly and that happens some days.”

But most days 24-year-old Ethan Menges is focused on moving forward  after spending the past year in the hospital fighting an infection that nearly took his life.

Ethan Menges: “This all started back on January 22. I was at the United Center at a Bulls game. I just sort of felt like a normal cold or flu coming on.”

As he watched the game, he grew sicker.

Ethan Menges: “I always say I went from zero to 100 within those few hours of the game. I collapsed. I passed out.”

Ethan was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors told him he had staph pneumonia – an infection had taken hold in his lungs and blood.

In a matter of hours …

Ethan Menges: “They put me on life support because I had gone septic. They had four chest tubes in me draining the fluid from my lungs. I was on dialysis, and they were keeping me alive.”

But the medications Ethan needed to fight the aggressive infection squeezed the blood away from his limbs and toward his organs. Slowly, his arms and legs died off from lack of circulation.

Ethan Menges: “It’s not a good feeling. It’s like that feeling when your hands are falling asleep and you get a tingling sensation.”

Dr Mark Huang, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: “We’ve seen many different scenarios where sort of innocuous or harmless infections may lead to very catastrophic consequences.”

​In the months it took him to recover from the devastating illness, Ethan braced for the next steps in his treatment – surgeries to amputate all four limbs.

Ethan Menges: “A lot of people don’t really understand what it’s like to be an amputee.”

It’s a new way of life Ethan is coming to understand himself. His caregivers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago help him tinker with his prosthetics and master their potential.

Ethan Menges: “There’s one thing to have them there, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to use them effectively. It’s all your scapula and your shoulders. There’s cables that when you put tension on it opens. Since I have my elbow on my right hand, the left one is more for stabilizing like holding something and then I manipulate with my right hand.”

Dr Huang: “It’s all those things that were once routine or automated you now have to think about how to do them step by step. So I think that’s the biggest challenge for patients like Ethan.”

And there are other challenges Ethan plans to take on.

Ethan Menges: “I just really want to help as many people as I can. I’ve been through a lot of mountains, a lot of hills, and I really understand the value of community and that emotional support to get through this, and I really want to help people do that. Now I have a new vigor for what I want to do with my life.”

And with that vigor and positive attitude – Ethan left the hospital to begin the next phase of his life. Knowing he has lots of challenges he serves as an inspiration to us all.


You can learn more about Ethan at:

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