A woman who did not clean her insulin pump as advised contracted a fungus that put her in a coma for a month and even killed her temporarily.
Carolina Bowen, 20, from South Carolina, has type one diabetes and did not wipe her insulin pump with an alcohol swab. She was taken to hospital with Rhizopus oryzae infection – a deadly fungus typically found in dirt and decaying matter.
She spent September last year in a medically induced coma, endured five surgeries and even died during one of them.
She has lost most function in her arm and her muscles to atrophy after her nerves in her armpit and shoulder down to her elbow were cut out. Carolina said: ‘Doctors told me I’m the only living survivor of this fungal infection in the US that did not have to have an amputation.
‘I had an amazing team of doctors and surgeons who pulled together and saved my life because it was a race against the clock.’
When she was admitted to hospital she was suffering from septic shock, organ failure and flesh-eating Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) that was developing in her left arm.
“Death was speaking to me and it was empathetic and telling me there was no shame in giving up.
“At first I was like, ‘I’m done’, but then I saw my life flash by all at once and I backed out of it.”
The infection got so severe that doctors seriously considered amputating Carolina’s arm at her shoulder.
Luckily, they were able to save the arm with debridement surgeries, in which chunks of the infected flesh are removed.
The nerves in Carolina’s armpit and shoulder down to her elbow were cut out, causing her to lose most function in her arm and her muscles to atrophy.
Carolina refused skin grafts, and instead, let her wound close without them.
“I opted to have no skin grafts because I did die during one of my surgeries, so I really didn’t want any more surgical intervention,” she said.
“I’ve had this wound for about a year and three months and it’s almost closed up all the way.”
Now after over a year, Carolina said that her kidneys have mainly healed and her respiratory system is good again, the only issue being her left arm.
She added: “Doctors told me I’m the only living survivor of this fungal infection in the U.S. that did not have to have an amputation.