CANTON, Ohio – An Ohio woman was hospitalized for more than 80 days and had multiple limbs partially amputated after catching a severe infection from dog saliva.
The last thing Marie Trainer remembers is feeling sick and lying down on the couch. The Stark County wife and mother woke up from a coma ten days later with both arms and legs partially amputated.
“When I opened my eyes I didn’t know where I was,” said Marie. “It was very hard to find out that they had to remove my legs and my arms ... very hard to cope with.”
Marie and her husband, Matthew Trainer, had just returned home from a vacation in the Caribbean.
They thought it was the flu because Marie felt nauseous and had a bad backache. But then suddenly her temperature spiked and plummeted.
“Her temperature went up then went down to about 93 degrees, that’s when we rushed her to the hospital,” said Matthew.
Aultman Hospital’s critical care team began aggressive treatments, but within hours Marie was developing sepsis and her condition continued to deteriorate.
“So we were getting new symptoms and worsening symptoms very rapidly,” said Gina Premier, Marie’s stepdaughter and a nurse practitioner at Aultman Hospital in Canton.
Premier said in just a couple days Marie was put into a medically-induced coma as her limbs began turning necrotic and then gangrenous.
Blood tests and cultures at both Aultman Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed the surprising diagnosis of capnocytophaga.
Dr. Margaret Kobe, Medical Director of Infectious Disease at Aultman, said capnocytophaga is a bacteria commonly found in the saliva of dogs and a smaller percentage of cats.
“Fairly common in the oral flora or the mouth of a dog and it can be transmitted through a bite or sometimes just contact with saliva,” said Dr. Kobe. “That organism is very virulent. It has the ability to induce your immune system to do some pretty horrible things.”
The Trainers have two dogs at home and suspect they might have accidentally licked a small scrape on Marie’s arm.
The organism causes dozens of large blood clots, that restrict blood flow and lead to necrosis and gangrene. Doctors repeatedly removed dozens of clots from Marie’s limbs, trying to save them, but too much damage was already done to the tissue.
Without the amputations, doctors told the family Marie would die.
“It was so rapid in progression ... there was nothing they could do,” said Gina.
Dr. Kobe said this type of severe reaction is very rare and only happens to roughly one in a million people. It’s also unpredictable. A person can be exposed to the bacteria and/or the dog for years and never have had a previous reaction.
In 2018 a Wisconsin man also had partial amputations on all four limbs after being licked by a dog.
But the same year, a different local patient recovered.
“Their immune system handled it differently,” said Dr. Kobe.
Both Dr. Kobe and Marie still love dogs and don’t want to terrify owners. However, they are encouraging people to be careful; Dr. Kobe says it’s a myth that dogs' mouths are cleaner than humans.
“If you get bit by a dog, you definitely need to go on antibiotics and to wash your hands when playing with a dog, especially with an open cut.”
Additionally, if you notice redness or signs of infection seek medical treatment immediately and be sure to tell the attending physician that you have pets.
“I’m still amazed at what it is. We still love our animals,” said Matthew and Marie, who have no plans to get rid of their dogs and can’t wait to be back at home as a family.
Although right now they’re focused on Marie’s recovery. After eight surgeries and being hospitalized more than 80 days, the hair stylist and salon owner faces intensive physical rehabilitation and an uncertain future.
But she is grateful to everyone who fought to save her life; especially her brother, children and husband of 32 years.
“He’s here every day for me ... every day he feeds me, and dresses me here every day,” said Marie breaking down in tears. “I mean what do you do? I had to learn how to sit up, roll over, it’s been just very hard.”
To help with the massive medical expenses and much needed prosthetic limbs, loved ones started “Trainer Strong” fundraising campaigns and they’ve created a GoFundMe page.