News / Ottawa

Ottawa mom loses three limbs to rare illness from dog bite

Two months ago Christine Caron, 49, was an independent single mother of four about to start training as a broker at a home and car insurance company.

But a single accidental bite from one of her pet dogs on May 18, 2013 resulted in an emergency trip to Montfort Hospital, followed by weeks of intense care in Ottawa Hospital for  a rare case of septic shock. The cause?  Capnocytophaga canimorsus - a common bacterium in the dog's saliva.

“I went from running every morning to waking up in the hospital a month and a half later,” Caron said.

Caron’s septic shock and resulting additional complications cut blood flow to her extremities, necessitating the amputation of both legs below the knee and her left arm below the elbow. Since 1976 only about 200 septic shock cases caused by Capnocytophaga canimorsus have been reported worldwide, Health Canada says.

“I came to and (was) told that I was having limbs removed and that was a real hard thing to deal with,” Caron said. “I’ve got a family, so I have to keep it positive.”

Christine’s daughter Danica, 24, recalled her mother’s first concerns when she finally awoke: “Are your brothers okay? You should take more vitamins. You should go home and rest.”

Christine was placed in the Ottawa rehabilitation centre on July 8 to start the long road to recovery. She hopes to keep her right arm, which was also damaged during the infection.

“She’s in good physical condition. She has the potential, with the appropriate rehabilitation therapy, and the appropriate prosthetic devices to be incredibly functional,” says Dr. Nancy Dudek, who works at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre.

But prosthetic devices all cost money, Dudek says.

Christine is currently uninsured, having been laid off from her job at the National Research Council in June 2011.

She was about to get workplace insurance as a broker at Carr and Company Insurance, but was hospitalized a few weeks before her training was to begin.

The prosthetics, home renovations, and different accessibility devices that she will now need cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“You could easily say that it would be at least $100,000,” says Dudek.

While prosthetics for standing or walking are partially covered through OHIP, ‘recreational’ prosthetics for sports are not.

A set of running prosthetics could cost $15,000 for each leg, Dudek says.

Christine says the company has told her they are still willing to hire her on as a broker when she gets out of hospital.

Unfortunately, that likely won’t happen until next year, Dudek says.

Meanwhile, Christine’s family have started an online fundraising campaign, “Caring for Chris,” on Fundrazr to cover her medical bills. They have raised more than $10,000 so far, and Christine said she is now less worried about the future.

“The difference that they’re making is incredible,” says Christine. “Words can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

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