Wellwishers donate $100k to man who lost hands and toes due to flea bite


A GoFundMe page for a Texas handyman who lost his hands and parts of his feet after contracting typhus from a flea bite has raised more than $100,000 (£77,846).

Michael Kohlhof, described as “incredibly smart and comical” by his family, began experiencing flu-like symptoms in June, including a fever and upset stomach.

Around a week after the symptoms started, the 35-year-old’s condition rapidly deteriorated.

Mr Kohlhof, who worked as a handyman and pet-sitter in Houston, was taken to San Antonio’s emergency department on 19 June after his health declined to the point where he was unable to get out of bed.

But shortly after arriving, he went into septic shock and was subsequently transferred to the intensive care unit, while the hospital ran a battery of tests to determine the cause.

His family are unsure when and where he was exposed to the flea bite, according to NBC News. The incubation period for flea-borne typhus ranges from seven to 14 days.

Writing on his GoFundMe page, his mother, J’Leene Hardaway, said Mr Kohlhof was put on a ventilator, CRRT (24-hour dialysis, numerous antibiotics, beta blockers and many other forms of medications to keep him alive, “but his organs were failing”.

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She said she was told to “call immediate family to come from all parts of the country to say their goodbyes”.

Miraculously, and defying the odds, Mr Kohlhof was taken off sedation in early July and “deliriously opened his eyes a few days later”.

In the weeks that followed, certain extremities were severely affected due to the impacts of sepsis.

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Mr Kohlhof had to undergo amputation of his toes, an inch of his feet, and his hands up to his forearms, all due to dry gangrene, which occurs when blood flow to those areas is blocked as a consequence of the life-threatening infection.

“He’s on the edge of not being able to keep his feet if things don’t go well,” his brother Greg said. “If they have to cut more feet off, they might have to just do a whole foot amputation for prosthetic purposes.”

Since awakening, he has undergone a series of procedures to address his amputations by receiving skin grafts.

“As of now, we do not know how much of his feet are salvageable,” Ms Hardaway wrote.

She added he will be “undergoing an excruciating amount of surgeries, therapies and rehabilitation, mostly to restore activities of daily living”.

“But he shouldn’t have to worry about the financial pain”, she said, before claiming that the more she researches, “the more I’m astonished at what can be done, but it’s always at a cost”.

The GoFundMe page had raised around $101,000 (£78,624) as of Saturday, and is flooded with comments from well-wishers.

One person wrote: “Don’t give up…Don’t ever quit. You survived. You’re still here because you’re one of the good guys that God is working through and He has plans that you need to fulfil for Him.”

Another commented: “This story touched my heart! I am praying for your speedy recovery! God bless you and your family!”

Typhus is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that can be transmitted by fleas, lice, and chiggers. Common symptoms of typhus include fever, chills, and body aches. In the case of flea-borne typhus, patients may experience additional symptoms such as nausea, cough, stomach pain, and a rash that appears around the fifth day of the illness, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The transmission of typhus-causing bacteria occurs when fleas and lice deposit their excrement on the wound while biting, leading to infection.

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