A healthy mom gives birth at a hospital. Days later, flesh-eating bacteria strikes
(The Washington Post) — The hospital delivery seemed problem-free. Baby Myles arrived on March 2, the first child born to Lindsey Hubley and Matt Sampson. The engaged couple from Halifax, Nova Scotia, brought their child home a few days later.
But Hubley did not have long with her newborn. The next day, she was back in the hospital, this time under the knife in an emergency surgery that would end with doctors placing the new mom in a medically induced coma.
Physicians eventually determined Hubley was suffering from necrotizing fasciitis, a dangerous flesh-eating disease. To beat back the infection, drastic measures were necessary — both the 33-year-old’s arms and legs were amputated, and doctors performed a total hysterectomy.
Seven months later, Hubley is still primarily confined to a hospital bed, fighting for small victories such as briefly leaving the medical center for the first time in a wheelchair. Although her son and fiance have been in her room every day, they’re far from the same family that left the hospital together after the birth.
“Having her watch the two of us leave and her sitting there for the rest of the night by herself in the hospital is absolutely tortuous,” Sampson told CTV News this week. “If it was just feet, it would be one thing. If it was just arms, it would be another thing. But there’s about nine different things we’re dealing with.”
And it all could have been prevented, Hubley and her family say. This week, the couple filed a negligence lawsuit in Nova Scotia Supreme Court against the hospital where she gave birth, IWK Health Center, and five doctors, the Canadian Press reported.
“Our allegations are that had she been properly assessed when she presented at the hospital . . . a substantial part of the damage, if not all of it, could have been prevented,” Ray Wagner, Hubley’s attorney, told the Press.
After the birth, Hubley was discharged from IWK Health Centre on March 4, according to a news release from Wagner. In the early hours of March 5, however, Hubley began feeling a “sharp, distinct, abdominal pain.” At 9 a.m., the couple and their newborn returned to IWK for the discomfort. The doctors said she was suffering from constipation. The family went back home.
The next day, Hubley was rushed in an ambulance to Queen Elizabeth II Emergency after the pain increased. She was immediately taken into the operating room. “They went into surgery, and Mike was advised that this was very serious,” Susan Hubley, Lindsey’s sister-in-law, told CBC News. “That was a very scary time for us. We were very unsure of how she was going to do.”
Hubley was suffering from secondary septic shock and experiencing multi-system organ failure. Doctors eventually determined she had a group A streptococcal infection, which possibly triggered the necrotizing fasciitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the condition is rare, but occurs when bacteria enters the body through an open wound. The infection also is fast-acting.
Hubley was placed in a medically induced coma while doctors worked to repair her damaged tissue. But the condition meant Hubley would lose her hands and her legs below the knee.
When she woke from the coma, Hubley had trouble speaking at first. “Cognitively, she’s incredible — she’s 1,000 percent,” Susan Hubley told the National Post. “She has said she just wants this to be done so she can go home and be a mom. She’s being as strong as she can.”
In March, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Health Authority confirmed to the Toronto Star that the province had seen a separate recent case of group A streptococcal, with seven cases total documented in 2017.
Hubley’s attorney Wagner told the Canadian Press that while at IWK Health Centre, part of Hubley’s placenta was not removed after the birth, and there was a tear in her vagina that was not treated with sutures — both could have contributed to the infection and health issues.
The hospital has not yet publicly addressed the lawsuit. An email for comment was not immediately returned Thursday night.
Since the birth, Sampson hasn’t been able to work, instead focusing his energy on caring for the newborn. Although Hubley is now a quadruple amputee, she is infection-free. But needed surgeries still lie ahead — including a kidney transplant.
“She’s much better than she’s been,” Sampson told CTV News. “She’s actually on a road to recovery where rehab is in the near future for the first time.”