Wisconsin woman's rug burn ends in limb amputation due to Strep-based illness

A Rice Lake, Wisconsin woman received a rug burn after tripping over her dog. It landed her in the ICU fighting for her life.

Doctors say it’s an illness most of us have had at one point or another. In this rare case, it resulted in the loss of several limbs.

Raising three boys on her own means Alecia Kennen can’t let a little ache or pain slow her down.

In June 2015, her instincts told her that a sharp pain under her right armpit was serious, so she rushed to the hospital.

“The nurse knew right away. The doctor knew right away that something was wrong,” Kennen said.

Within days, Kennen was bleeding internally. Her lungs were filling with fluid. Her vital organs started to fail and her limbs were turning black.

Doctors told her family to say their goodbyes.

“They had told my family that there wasn’t a clear answer and they weren’t sure what it was and I was losing the battle,” Kennen said.

When one of her boys started complaining about a sore throat, the doctors finally had the clue they needed.

“At that time, they tested all three of them for strep throat, and all three of them tested positive,” she said.

Kennen was diagnosed with Group A Strep Toxic Shock Syndrome.

It’s the same bacteria that made her boys sick. It found its way into her bloodstream through a small rug burn on her shoulder.

“It went from rug burn to barely being alive within a week’s time,” Kennen said.

Dr. Stacene Maroushek of Hennepin Healthcare says while it’s quite rare, when it happens, it comes on quickly.

“Everybody has staph and strep living on their skin and you get an opening and you may just be unlucky enough to get a toxin containing germ, or you get lucky enough to get a regular one and your body’s immune system is able to fight it and control it,” Maroushek said.

While Kennen is free of the infection today, the effects of toxic shock will be with her forever.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around how I had been through all this and now you’re going to take my limbs from me,” she said.

All her fingers and toes had to be amputated, as did her right leg below the knee.

“If somebody sees this and is able to say, ‘Hey, I’ve never heard of it and I’ve heard of it now,’ and be aware of it, it makes a difference for me,” she said.

It’s a rare occurrence that she hopes will stop with her. Dr. Maroushek says there’s really no sure-fire way to prevent Toxic Shock from strep, but immediately washing all cuts and scrapes with soap and water can help.