Doctors in Portland are searching for the cause of an 18-year-old girl’s worsening illness that has taken her legs and is now threatening to take her life.
Tabitha Schulke, 18, began experiencing flu-like symptoms on Thanksgiving morning. Suddenly, her illness worsened and she began developing gangrene on her feet. She’s now fighting for her life in the critical care unit of a Portland Hospital.
‘They looked like she’d been out in the snow, like they turned black,’ Katie Zimmerman, the teen’s aunt, told ABC News affiliate KATU.
Doctors told her family that she would die of the mystery illness, as they felt there was little they could do to saver her.
‘They told the family that she was going to die, that you need to come say goodbye,’ said Amber Shoebridge, public relations officer at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.
But a specialized emergency team at Legacy Emanuel was able to stabilize her with ‘extracorporeal membrane oxygenation,’ a technology that provides support to patients whose heart and lungs are severely damaged and cannot function on their own.
The gangrene continued to spread, however, and surgeons were forced to amputate Schulke’s legs at each knee.
As she fights for her life in a critical care unit, doctors are beginning to think she may be suffering from toxic shock syndrome, a disease with a 50 percent chance of survival caused by staph infections.
The condition can be triggered after a cut or wound becomes infected. Women who are menstruating or using barrer contraceptive devices are more likely to contract the disease.
Lab studies will confirm whether Schulke’s infection was caused by toxic shock.
Schulke’s doctors told ABC News that while she is still in critical condition, they are hopeful that she’ll recover.
‘She’s improving very much so,’ Shoebridge said. ‘She’s a little more responsive than she had been.’
Zimmerman said Shulke has responded by squeezing her hand when she asks her to give her a sign of whether she is in pain.
Crying, Zimmerman told ABC, ‘She’s beautiful on the outside, but she’s even more beautiful on the inside.’
Schulke, who is now covered in hospital machines, is a Sunday school teacher and she wants to be a missionary.
‘Just her surviving, that’s all that matters,’ Zimmerman said. ‘Not Christmas, not anything, just… we want Tabi.’
Stephen Willard | Elite.