A Wisconsin man who lost part of his forearms and legs after contracting a rare blood infection from dog saliva is being praised by his doctor for his determination to walk again with prosthetics (Oct. 2)
MILWAUKEE — Three days after Greg Manteufel arrived at Froedtert Hospital, deathly ill and battling a rare bacterial infection traced to dog saliva, doctors here presented him with grim news.
That day at the end of June, they explained that to save his life, they would need to amputate his legs.
“When they told me, I told them, ‘Do whatever you have to do to keep me alive,’ ” Manteufel said. “And I was happy about it.”
The infection, known as capnocytophaga, would end up costing the 48-year-old house painter from West Bend, Wisconsin, both hands as well, but he and his wife accepted the sacrifice without regret. The two finally left the hospital two weeks ago.
“We kind of look at it that we didn’t fight this hard to lay down and give up,” his wife, Dawn Manteufel, said Tuesday at a news conference with her husband at the hospital. “We still have a fight to go.”
► Aug. 14: Infections from dog lick are very rare. Experts say get medical help fast.
► Aug. 11: Bacteria spread through dog saliva linked to death of Wisconsin woman
► Aug. 1: Man’s legs, hands amputated after a dog’s lick: ‘He still loves his dog’
Greg Manteufel expects to walk again — and doctors agree.
Though highly rare, the bacterial infection struck a second time this summer, causing the death of a Sharon Larson, 58, of South Milwaukee and prompting concern among some families with dogs. In 2015, a 3-year-old Liam Young of Louisburg had to have his fingers and toes amputated after he developed the same kind of infection.
Greg Manteufel remains convinced that he did not get the infection from his beloved 8-year-old pit bull terrier Ellie, who did not bite, scratch or lick him in the days before he got sick. He estimated that he had contact with as many as eight other dogs and said he bore no bad will toward any of them.
“It’s not the dog’s fault,” he said. “Dogs come up to you to love you. It’s just a fluke thing that happened.”
On the night of June 27, the couple’s son, Michael, was downstairs at the family home when heard his father wake and begin stumbling around trying to reach the bathroom. When the son asked what was going on, Greg Manteufel tried talking but what came out of his mouth was only gibberish.
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“We’ve got to get you to the hospital,” Michael Manteufel told his father.
“I’m not going anywhere,” the father managed to say.
Two more times the son pleaded with his father, and twice more the father refused to move.
After Greg Manteufel went back to sleep, Michael Manteufel called his grandfather, John Schmitt, who lived six miles away. Schmitt hurried over.
“I woke up with my dad in my face,” Greg Manteufel said, adding that Froedtert doctors told him: “If I’d been three hours later to the hospital I’d have been dead.”
That first day, the doctors diagnosed Greg Manteufel with sepsis, a life-threatening medical emergency brought on by the body’s response to an infection. In the first of the three stages of sepsis, the infection hits the bloodstream.
But when Greg Manteufel arrived at the hospital he was already in the final stage: septic shock, a significant drop in blood pressure that can lead to respiratory or heart failure.
“He was incredibly sick. The overall mortality rate for patients in septic shock is at least 30 percent,” said Rahul Nanchal, one of the critical care doctors at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. He had violet lesions across his skin caused by the severe infection.
Doctors fought back with powerful antibiotics and fluids to help blood flow through the arteries, carrying nutrients and oxygen to tissue throughout the body.
When Dawn Manteufel learned her husband had sepsis, she realized how serious it was. Sepsis had taken her father’s life.
“He’s not going to make it,” she recalled thinking. “He’s going to pass away like my father.”
Later, she went home with their son and the two of them tried to picture their lives without Greg Manteufel. Dawn Manteufel imagined what it would be like to pack up her husband’s belongings, his Harley.
As dire as his condition was, Greg Manteufel said he never allowed himself to think of death. His brother, Mark, who had beaten leukemia in the late 1990s, visited.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to stay strong. Don’t ever look back,’ ” Greg Manteufel recalled.
Greg Manteufel followed his brother’s advice.
On Tuesday, doctors spoke of a man who was as ill as any they had seen yet remained steadfast and optimistic.
“One thing was that he was very, very optimistic throughout this. I’m sure he had an incredible will to survive,” said Nanchal, the critical care doctor.
“He never wavered,” said David Del Toro, a doctor for 25 years who works as a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“He said that he knew he was going to lose his hands. He told me, ‘Whatever you think is best. I trust you.’ “
Doctors said Greg Manteufel will be fitted with prosthetic limbs. They expect him to be able to walk and even drive a car eventually.
Follow Mark Johnson on Twitter: @majohnso
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