ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Every day, Kevin Kelley wakes up tucked under the covers of his bed feeling good. Then he pulls back the blankets to realize: “I don’t have any hands and feet.”
“And that’s every day,” he said.
“The day I woke up and found I had no feet and no hands was kind of a shock,” he said.
What started as a mild fever and a strep infection turned into sepsis and rare, often deadly infection. To save his life, doctors had to perform a quadruple amputation.
“It was devastating,” girlfriend Lynn Garapic said. “It’s something you never want anyone to go through and you don’t expect to go through yourself.”
Doctors told Garapic to call Kelley’s sons in Hawaii and tell them to get on a flight. Their father had a 10 percent chance of survival.
Eleven months later, Kelley still remembers almost nothing from his brush with death in the form of a rare, deadly condition called purpura fulminans that causes your skin to rot – hands and feet first.
“Then the day I woke up, I finally realized I was awake and saw hands wrapped and feet wrapped. I had no idea this had taken place,” he said.
The former Uber driver has spent the better part of the last year getting used to a new normal; one where he remembers each morning that he no longer has limbs, and straps on his prosthetics to get around.
He said he likes prosthetics that look like real feet and wears sandals so he can look down and see his toes.
“Seeing the feet makes me happy,” he said.
Out in public he said passersby often thank him for his service, thinking he lost his limbs in combat.
“I get that all the time … I always tell them, ‘Nah, I got sick you know.’”
People are even more puzzled when he tells them it all started with a case of strep.
It makes him happy to know his story helps others have a better appreciation for life as they know it.
“We were walking in Publix and a lady comes up to Lynn and says, ‘I’ll never complain another day in my life’ because she saw me walking around the store,” he said.
Kelley said the experience shifted his outlook on life as well – encouraging him to try to help out the underdog.
“If somebody’s down and out, I want to see if I can help ‘em,” he said.
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