Local mom who had limbs amputated from rare infection shares ‘miraculous’ news

STARK COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – A local wife and mother is reclaiming her life one step at a time, five years after losing all four limbs to a severe reaction to a bacteria found in dog and cat saliva.

“Of course, at first, I said, ‘Why did you let me live?’ You know, how can I live like this?” said Marie Trainer.

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Trainer had just returned from a tropical vacation in the spring of 2019.

She had a small cut on her hand but didn’t think anything of it when her beloved dog welcomed her home with kisses.

“Four days later I wasn’t feeling well and just got sicker and sicker,” she said.

Her husband of 37-years Matt Trainer thought it was the flu and rushed her to the hospital where doctors were stumped as Marie slipped into a coma.

“It was rough,” said Matt.

Tests at both Aultman Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed the surprising diagnosis of capnocytophaga canimorsus, a virulent bacterium commonly found in the saliva of dogs, and cats, that can aggressively trigger the immune system and cause severe blood clots.

The large growing clots can cut off circulation to the limbs; causing them to turn necrotic, often requiring amputation.

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“It was just rapidly progressing where her hands and feet were turning black,” said Dr. Ajay Seth, Orthopedic Surgeon, Researcher & Author with OrthoUnited Spectrum Orthopaedics in North Canton.

Initially some treating physicians wanted to amputate all four limbs at the torso, which would have extremely limited her life.

But Dr. Seth was determined to save as much of her limbs as possible so that she could be fitted for prosthetics and have a “normal” life.

He performed a “miraculous and arduous” operation that took more than seven hours during which time he removed at least 40 to 50 clots.

Both of Marie’s legs had to be amputated above the knees, but Dr. Seth did manage to save most of her arms.

If Marie’s limbs were not amputated, she could’ve died within days, if not hours.

Now five years later, she is healthy, strong and making tremendous strides.

“It’s been challenging,” she said, “Learning how to walk was the hardest thing, but I’m good, I’m doing good.”

That’s despite a bumpy road to recovery.

The amputations occurred in 2019 and then just as she was starting rehabilitation the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.

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“We had difficulty getting parts, you need knees, you need feet you need hands, small parts, screws, doesn’t matter we had a hard time,” said Hanger Clinic Clinical Leader & Prosthetist Craig Jackman.

“But she still persevered through,” said Dr. Seth, “And has just been running since then.”

Marie now has new state-of-the-art prosthetic legs and hands that enable her to do almost everything, from gardening to drawing and riding on the couple’s trike.

“When I see her walk it’s like, ‘Oh my God this is amazing,’” said Matt, “We see the light at the end of the tunnel, we just adjust what we have to do, it just takes more planning when we want to do something.”

Her perseverance has not only inspired people in Northeast Ohio, but her story has traveled around the globe.

She’s been contacted and offered support to other amputees and become a role model and example of what’s possible for everyone.

“To see the progress she’s made in five years it’s like miraculous, it’s unbelievable how far she’s come,” said Dr. Seth, “And every time I see her she’s got that smile, not many people could do that.”

As for her future…

“The sky’s the limit,” said Jackman, “Marie has myoelectric protheses. So, the way that works is we put electrodes on the surface of her skin so when she contracts her muscles there’s electrical impulses that go through those muscles so those sensors pick it up…  so, she just, in essence, thinks open hand and close hand, and that’s what happens.”

Marie says they function almost like biological hands and legs and can even provide the sensation of touch.

Which is why she knew the very first thing she wanted to do after getting the hands.

“So, the first thing I did was held Matts hand because I hadn’t done that in a while,” she says.

Marie is grateful to her “team” for getting her through these past five years.

She says she might not be here if it weren’t for Matt, their children, Dr. Seth, Jackman and many others who’ve worked with her in physical therapy and rehabilitation.

She’s now even looking forward to dancing at Matthew Junior’s upcoming wedding.

But most of all, she says she is grateful to her husband, and thankful they can once again live and love life together.

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“Especially my husband, Oh gosh I don’t know what I would do without him,” she said, choked up, “I love him more and more every day!”

GoFundMe account remains in place to help the Trainers with their ongoing medical bills.

They and doctors also try to warn everyone about the potential dangers found in canine and feline saliva.

They say if you are bitten by those animals go to the emergency room immediately.

Also frequently wash your hands and especially if you have a cut, even if they are your own pets, because in a moment your life can change forever.

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