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Woman Who Lost All Her Toes To Sepsis Training For Marathon

Woman Who Lost All Her Toes To Sepsis Training For Marathon

A woman who lost all her toes to sepsis is now training for a marathon.

Forty-six-year-old Maria Papalia-Meier, from Massachusetts, became ill after she had a strep throat infection, and was diagnosed with sepsis when she developed body rashes, fever, hallucinations and shortness of breath.

She thought she had the flu, but as her condition got worse she was rushed to the hospital.

Maria was placed into a coma. Credit: Jam Press
Maria was placed into a coma. Credit: Jam Press
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On 18 June 2014, Maria was diagnosed with sepsis, before going into septic shock. She was placed into a medically induced coma when her organs began to fail.

The pressor medication she was on - which is used to treat hypotension, or low blood pressure - meant her toes started to turn black because of the lack of blood flow.

Doctors then had to amputate all ten of her toes.

Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press
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She said: "I developed a rash on my stomach and arms after contracting a strep throat infection.

"Then I started to experience body aches, fever, darkened urine, hallucinations and shortness of breath

"I thought I had the flu and went to the hospital thinking I needed IV fluids. I had no idea I was close to death.

"I went into septic shock and all my organs failed. I coded twice and was in a medically induced coma for two weeks.

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"I was at the hospital and rehab centre for a little over seven weeks.

"I came home on August 8th and my toes were amputated the week before Halloween."

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Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press

Since her dramatic near-death experience, Maria wants to turn it into a positive and hopes to educate people about the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

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Not only has she published a book about her experience, titled I am a Runner: The Memoirs of a Sepsis Survivor, she is also training for the Chicago 2022 marathon, which is more than 42.1 kilometres (26.2 miles).

She said: "I have worked really hard to let people know about Sepsis and signs and symptoms. I no longer have the career I had; I am just working part-time now but by choice.

"This has allowed me to live my best life and continue to pursue my dreams of becoming a motivational speaker and a marathon runner."

Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press
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It took years for Maria to adapt to running without toes. She wears normal running shoes, but often has pain and swelling in her feet when running during hot summer months.

She has since taken up Bikram Yoga, which she said has helped with getting her balance back and allowing her to stabilise herself when running.

Maria said: "It took years to get where I am now. I would say I have to focus on my feet when I run. I run in a shoe with a low foot drop.

"It allows me to feel the ground so I know my foot is striking in the right spot and I am not rolling my foot.

"I do get nerve pain and swelling when I run in the summer. I am careful not to push myself too much to avoid blisters.

Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press

"I wear TOPO UltraFly sneakers. They have a wide toe base and the low foot drop. They have been discontinued so the hunt for a new shoe will start soon. I also wear gripper socks to keep my foot from sliding in my shoe."

In a few words of advice to sepsis survivors or who are going through treatment, Maria added: "There are so many things [friends and family] will not be able to understand. The best people to help you are ones that have been through it.

"We all survived for a reason. What we went through sucks but there is a positive in that we lived and we can share and help spread awareness."

Featured Image Credit: Jam Press

Topics: Inspirational, US News

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Amelia Ward

Amelia is a journalist at LADbible. After studying journalism at Liverpool John Moores and Salford Uni (don't ask), she went into PR and then the world of music. After a few years working on festivals and events, she went back to her roots. In her spare time, Amelia likes music, Liverpool FC, and spending good, quality time with her cat, Paul. You can contact Amelia at [email protected]