She doesn’t know how she contracted the illness but wasn’t vaccinated as a child. Picture: Channel 9
She doesn’t know how she contracted the illness but wasn’t vaccinated as a child. Picture: Channel 9

Woman loses her limbs in sudden illness

Just a few short months ago, Kannika McClelland was working as a dental assistant in Western Australia.

But today the 52-year-old is relearning how to do simple tasks like feed herself after losing all her limbs.

Four months ago Ms McClelland contracted meningococcal and fell into a coma within days of getting ill.

In order to save her life, doctors were forced to amputate her arms and legs after she woke from a month-long coma to find they had turned black.

"I cried every day. I don't want to see that, I just wanted the doctor to operation (operate) and cut it off," an emotional Ms McClelland told Channel 9.

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Ms McClelland was in a coma for a month after contracting meningococcal. Picture: Channel 9
Ms McClelland was in a coma for a month after contracting meningococcal. Picture: Channel 9

Ms McClelland is now recovering in hospital and has no idea how she contracted meningococcal, except that she wasn't vaccinated against the illness as a child in Thailand.

"I just thought like, 'Oh I did something wrong, I did something, why (did) it happen to me?'" she said.

Ms McClelland's case isn't common, with only 29 diagnosed with meningococcal in Western Australia last year.

Meningococcal is rare in Australia but can be caught if you come into prolonged close contact with mucus from an infected person, such as kissing, according to the Department of Health.

Around 10 to 20 per cent of people have the bacteria in their throat or nasal passages but don't show any signs of meningococcal.

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The 52-year-old is now relearning basic tasks, like feeding herself. Picture: Channel 9
The 52-year-old is now relearning basic tasks, like feeding herself. Picture: Channel 9

The disease can be prevented through vaccination and early diagnosis of meningococcal is often crucial in how effectively it can be treated.

Symptoms of meningococcal include a red or purple rash that looks like tiny pinpricks, headaches, fever, nausea and feeling uncomfortable looking at bright lights.

In about five to 10 per cent of cases, meningococcal can be very severe, with the infection spreading through the blood stream and causing clotting in blood vessels.

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She doesn’t know how she contracted the illness but wasn’t vaccinated as a child. Picture: Channel 9
She doesn’t know how she contracted the illness but wasn’t vaccinated as a child. Picture: Channel 9

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This clotting can then cause a person's limbs to lose its blood supply, meaning they must be amputated to avoid being fatal.

Spring is a peak time for the disease. Babies and children up to the age of five, as well as those aged 15 to 24 years, are among the most vulnerable.

People with suppressed immune systems, smokers and those living in crowded accommodation are also at greater risk, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

There are five common strains of meningococcal disease in Australia - A, B, C, W and Y. Currently immunisation for A, C, W and Y strains is free for those eligible through the National Immunisation Program. Meningococcal B vaccination is available but must be paid for.

 

 

In order to save her life all four of her limbs had to be amputated. Picture: Channel 9
In order to save her life all four of her limbs had to be amputated. Picture: Channel 9


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