Mom gave birth to twins, then was infected by flesh-eating bacteria
Lana Kuykendall has been in hospital for just over two months
Doctor says she's made a strong recovery
Kuykendall has undergone more than 20 surgeries
Lana Kuykendall – the South Carolina woman infected with flesh-eating bacteria shortly after giving birth to twins more than two months ago – will go home soon, possibly as early as Tuesday, doctors said Monday.
“She’ll be heading home this week,” said Dr. Spence Taylor, vice president for academics at Greenville Hospital System. “She’s making a great recovery.”
Kuykendall, who clasped hands with her husband, Darren, as she spoke to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, said her recovery has had ups and downs.
“I’ve had my moments where I’ve had myself a good cry, but then you just go on,” she told CNN.
Darren Kuykendall said family and friends have been caring for the twins, named Ian and Abigail.
Dr. Kevin Kopera, medical director for Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital, said Lana Kuykendall wanted an aggressive rehabilitation approach.
“That meant three hours of therapy a day at the minimum,” he said. “I initially thought she would be with us for four to six weeks and she’s leaving on day 26 (Tuesday). It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears – literally.”
Lana Kuykendall, wearing a blue T-shirt that read “FAITH HOPE LANA,” said the day after getting the babies home from the hospital she noticed what looked like a bruise on her leg. When Kuykendall, a nurse and paramedic, inspected it closer she thought it might be a blood clot, and she had her husband, a firefighter and EMT, take her to the hospital.
“Fortunately she had the good sense to notice this was more serious than usual,” said epidemiologist Dr. Bill Kelly.
Doctors there outlined the spot with a pen and saw the discolored area move. They took her to surgery, while one of the doctors told Darren Kuykendall how serious her condition actually was.
Lana Kuykendall said she doesn’t dwell on why this happened to her. A friend of the Kuykendalls’ had a similar case in 2007. That showed her it is an opportunistic disease, she said.
“There’s no point in asking, ‘Why me?’ ” she told CNN. “It just happens.”
She still faces months of in-home and then outpatient rehab, Kopera said.
Kuykendall was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis on May 11, four days after giving birth, and taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital. She has undergone more than 20 surgical procedures, including skin grafts and reconstructive surgery. But she did not require any amputations, as recently occurred in the case of 24-year-old Aimee Copeland of Georgia, who lost her hands, a leg and a foot as a result of the infection.
A number of bacteria, which are common in the environment but rarely cause serious infections, can lead to the disease. When the bacteria get into the bloodstream – such as through a cut – doctors typically move aggressively to excise even healthy tissue near the infection site in hopes of ensuring none of the dangerous bacteria remain.
The disease attacks and destroys healthy tissue and is fatal in about 20% of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, fewer than 250 such cases occur each year in the United States, though estimates are imprecise because doctors aren’t required to report the cases to health authorities.
CNN’s John Bonifield contributed to this report.