General Health

Mum’s Brave Battle after Losing Hands and Feet from Infection after Birth

Texas mum Krystina Pacheco nearly lost her life after falling severely ill shortly after giving birth to her second child. The 29-year-old mother suffered septic shock after a C-section where she had her hands, feet, lower arms and lower legs amputated.

Four months after the horrific infection after birth, Krystina has finally returned home to her babies and is now learning how to thrive in this new reality. 

An uneventful birth

Krystina delivered her second child, a little girl named Amelia in October 2022 in what she described as an “uneventful C-section delivery”.

When Krystina and Amelia returned home two days after the birth, Krystina started to feel a bit feverish. She also experienced shortness of breath and vomiting but assumed these symptoms were related to her recovery. A nurse gave her ibuprofen but Krystina’s health continued to decline. 

Krystina sepsis infection after c-section
Krystina and her husband Jacob. Source: ABC News

Krystina visited a doctor who dispatched her to a local emergency room. She was then airlifted to a San Antonio hospital where she was diagnosed with septic shock, an extremely dangerous condition in which the body has an extreme response to infection.

“I just remember[ed] I couldn’t breathe anymore and I couldn’t see anymore and I just started slowly fading out,” Pacheco told ABC News.

“My husband, I could just hear him saying, ‘Please come back to us, please, your babies need you. I need you. I need you to be here and help me with our babies,’ and that’s the last thing I remember.”

She was given medication immediately which saved her life. She spent two weeks in intensive care breathing through a tube but she fought the infection.

Hands and feet were black

However, tragically the infection after birth had already cut off the circulation of blood to her hands and feet. Despite the medical staff’s best efforts, Krystina’s hands and feet couldn’t be saved. 

Krystina sepsis after birth
Source: ABC News

“My hands and feet were black. They looked like a person who had gotten frostbite.” 

Kystina underwent surgery to have both her hands and feet amputated. 

She recalls crying to her husband when she realised life would no longer be the same. Krystina credits her children, Amelia and Own, and her husband, Jacob, for giving her strength to make it through the terrifying ordeal. 

“They were my number one motivation, hands down. Every day in rehab, that was my drive. 

In addition to the surgeries to have her hands and feet amputated, Krystina also underwent nearly one dozen skin grafts due to the damage from the amputations. 

Krystina - sepsis infection after birth
Source: ABC News

She spent a further two months in hospital before being transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann, a rehabilitation center in Houston. 

Not going to give up 

“It’s a roller coaster. I’m not going to say I don’t have my bad days, because I do,” Krystina added. “It’s an emotional thing to experience.”

“She’s really, really strong. She’s kicking rehab butt, for sure,” Krystina’s husband, Jacob added. “We’re waiting for the healing process to happen on her legs, but her arms are doing really well, and hopefully we’ll be starting the prosthetic training.”

After four months in the hospital, Krystina is finally back at home with her two babies. Not only is she smashing motherhood, but she’s also well on her way to rebuilding strength and completing daily tasks we often take for granted. 

“I’ve gotten into putting on makeup by myself, I put my contacts in by myself. Brush my hair.”

She also shares how she’s working on being able to go dancing again with her husband. 

Despite what’s been thrown my way, I’m not going to give up because I want to set that example for my babies.”

What is Sepsis? 

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when you already have an infection. Sepsis triggers a chain reaction throughout your body that can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. 

Around 20,000 people are treated with this condition in Australia every year. Early treatment with antibiotics is usually strong enough to treat sepsis but early intervention and diagnosis are key.

Some of the sepsis symptoms include:

  • fever and shivering
  • convulsions
  • rapid breathing
  • a rash or discoloured skin (pale or bluish)
  • confusion

Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, contact the ED immediately.

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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