Teen Tabitha Schulke Nearly Dies from Mysterious Illness, Loses Legs

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A mother who thought her 18-year-old daughter had the flu, was shocked to find she had a mysterious, deadly illness after she started developing gangrene on her feet.

On Thanksgiving morning, Tabitha Schulke felt a little under the weather. But in just a few hours, her illness became worse. When she developed gangrene on her feet, her mother, Donna Schulke, took her to the hospital. Tabitha’s heart stopped on the way there.

As Donna waited for the doctors to tell her what was happening, one doctor came up and informed her that there was only one option for possibly saving her daughter: to amputate her legs.

Donna was forced to make the decision to cut her daughter’s legs off alone, as she is a single mother. She wondered if it would be best to let Tabitha go, as her body was so damaged from the mysterious infection that she had no idea if she would suffer brain damage or go into a coma.

She decided to have them amputated.

Doctors said it was unlikely Tabitha would survive the illness, as they felt there was little they could do to help her.

But thanks to a specialized emergency team at Legacy Emanuel, they were able to stabilize her with “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation,” a technique that gives support to patients with severely damaged hearts and lungs.

Donna said she told her daughter goodbye at least 12 times, as Tabitha suffered from multiple organ failure.

Andrew Michaels performed the surgery, which lasted 8 hours, but saved her life.

“To save her life, we committed her to a lifetime of disability. Had we done the right thing?” he said. He told Tabitha the news when she woke up as he “wanted her forgiveness.”

After she regained consciousness, she was devastated by the news. Her left leg was amputated six inches below the knee while her right leg was amputated six inches above the knee.

Despite the shock and upset, Tabitha said her mother made the right decision to amputate her legs.

Tabitha spent 82 days in the hospital and was allowed to go home last week, where she stays in a hospital bed in the living room.

“This was the hardest choice I ever made. I prayed for guidance because my choice was going to change her whole life. I decided that as long as Tabitha’s spirit is intact she will be fine,” Donna said.

“In many ways, this is a rebirth. When we came home it reminded me of when she was a baby and said her first word.”

Oregon Live