Oklahoma Woman Get Parts of Both Legs, Arms Amputated After Tick Bite Infection

She originally thought she had the flu, but it turned out to be much worse.

August 15, 2015, 9:40 AM

— -- A 40-year-old woman from Shawnee, Oklahoma, recently had to get major parts of both arms and both legs amputated due to a serious infection from an unnoticed tick bite after a vacation, according to her husband and hospital staff.

The patient, Jo Rogers, is currently in the intensive care unit of Integris' Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where she is being treated for complications stemming from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), her husband, Keith Rogers, told ABC News Friday.

RMSF is a potentially fatal tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"After things started going bad and she went into septic shock, the blood flow cut off to her limbs, and her hands and feet started going black," her husband said. "So, two weeks ago, they had to cut off her right leg just above the knee, her left leg just below the knee and both her arms about mid-forearm."

Keith Rogers said that he visits his wife every day at the hospital as she battles other complications from RMSF, including blood clots in her lungs that necessitated a tracheotomy last Friday.

"Every day is a new challenge," he said. "I go in there, sit and talk to her and show her pictures of how our two boys are doing. I show her videos of her two dogs back at home. I try to keep it normal, but it gets very hard because she'll want me not to leave, and it's so hard because I can't take her with me."

Though Jo Rogers currently can't speak or walk, her husband wants people to know she is a fun-loving woman who loved her dogs, hiking and nature.

The couple went hiking at Natural Falls State Park, close to the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, this past Fourth of July, he said, explaining that there weren't many waterfalls in Oklahoma and she wanted to go see one.

"But when we came back, she started feeling sick, and she thought she might have the flu," Keith Rogers said, noting that headaches turned into fevers that then became aggravated with vomiting and dizziness.

Though his wife initially resisted going to the hospital, she was so lethargic a week later that "she wasn't making any sense," Keith Rogers said, so he took her to the emergency room.

As her health deteriorated, doctors did rounds of tests on her, including tests for meningitis and West Nile Virus, but they only figured out she had complications from a tick-borne illness when she was already developing gangrene on her limbs, he said.

"We're not sure if she was bit by the tick when we were hiking at the falls or if it was at home," he said. "I don't think it's really set in with my family yet, but for me, it's up and down every day."

Keith Rogers said he's not sure if his wife will be in the hospital for a few more months or a year, but once she's fully recovered, he said she'll likely transition to rehab and that the family would take it from there.

A GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of Jo's medical care has been set up by her cousin, he added.

"RMSF is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in Oklahoma," according to the state Health Department. "In addition, Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of RMSF in the United States."

A spokesperson for Integris' Baptist Medical Center told ABC News that Jo Rogers' physician declined to be interviewed but confirmed she was currently at the hospital being treated for RMSF and that she has had amputations.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor for ABC News, said RMSF is s currently in peak tick season.

"It's been reported in urban areas and even found in people who have not been camping," she said.

The symptoms -- fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and rash -- can mimic a lot of viruses, she said.

"If there is a suspicion that these symptoms could be related to a tick bite, the recommendation is to start doxycycline antibiotics immediately because time is of the essence," said Ashton.

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