New hands the hope of sepsis survivor
Shaninlea Visser lost her hands, legs and half her face in a matter of days after contracting a rare bacterial infection. Almost overnight the 34-year-old mother and businesswoman became a quadruple amputee.
Now she hopes to become the first South African to undergo a double hand transplant, an operation that is believed to only ever have been done once before, in the US.
In January, while attending parents evening at her daughter's school in Port Elizabeth, Visser collapsed. The following day, she felt like her hands and feet were on fire. She collapsed again and was taken to hospital.
She was diagnosed with gram-negative bacterial sepsis - an infection that is resistant to antibiotics and other antibacterial interventions - and slipped into a coma for two weeks. Her husband, Anthony, was called in and told that her organs had started shutting down and that if she did not wake up within 24 hours "that would be it".The following day, she woke up, unaware of what had happened. On February 6 her legs were amputated. Her hands were amputated two days later.
"I came out of the coma with strength and positivity that can only come from above," said Visser, who still has no idea how she contracted the infection.
"I'm a lot more appreciative of the people around me. I know now that life can be short; it can be taken away from you very quickly. You've just got to appreciate everything that you've got."
She has undergone 31 surgeries to reconstruct her face, and said she was only just beginning to recognise herself in the mirror.