Small bite from her own dog puts Ottawa woman in six-week coma, costs her three limbs
An Ottawa woman has had three of her limbs amputated because of a very rare infection following a bite from her own dog. Yet, she says, what she feels now is hope because of the one limb she will keep.
Christine Caron, a 49-year-old single mother of four, was playing tug-of-war with two of her four dogs on May 18 when the accidental bite took place. She reached for the middle of the rope just when Buster, her three-year-old Shih Tzu, was trying to get a better grip. It was “just a sort of nick” on her knuckle, she says.
“It didn’t seem like a big deal.”
After the bite, her three other dogs came and licked her wound. She didn’t think that would pose a risk, although it’s now unclear whether the Capnocytophaga canimorsus bacteria that infected her came from Buster or from the other dogs.
The bacteria is commonly found in dog saliva, but rarely leads to infection in humans. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, this type of infection has been reported only about 200 times worldwide since 1976.
It took a few days before it happened, but the infection struck hard.
“I went to bed on May 21 and I don’t remember anything after that,” Caron says.
She was in a coma for a month and a half. A day or two after she woke up, the doctors told her they would need to amputate.
When she first got the news from the doctors, they said all four of her limbs were going to have to come off.
Her thoughts were on her family, her house in Beacon Hill — all of her responsibilities. Caron, a long-time public servant with the National Research Council who lost her job two years ago, was just about to begin a course to become an insurance broker when the infection hit.
“I had some personal hard days,” she says. “But the main worry was how I was going to deal with my family.”
But then a moment came that “changed everything,” for her life and for her attitude.
“There was one day and one of the doctors said he heard circulation in my hand and that they were going to possibly be able to save my hand.”
She doesn’t yet have much use of that hand, but at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, she says she’s making great progress with it. She can now make a fist, and she’s thrilled.
After all, she says, she has her right hand. Finding out she’d have it has made all the difference in the world.
“It was like a — I don’t know — it was like the moment that I decided that this was going to be it and we were going to do it. And there’s no question, it has to happen.”
Now, she says there’s no doubt in her mind that, whatever it takes, she is going to have a normal life.
“Yes, I am. And so is my family.”
The insurance company is still willing to hire her when she is finishes her rehabilitation, but it won’t happen this year. In the meantime, she has no private insurance.
A fundraising drive has been set up to help pay for her prosthetic limbs and adjustments to her home. It can be found on fundrazr.com, under the heading “Caring for Chris.” The goal is to raise $100,000 and, as of Sunday night, $14,000 had been raised.
“That’s just been incredible in helping me feel a little better on how we’re going to pay for everything,” Caron says.