Alex Lewis was a 33-year-old man coasting through life when suddenly everything changed. One minute he was coming down with a cold, and the next he was being rushed into hospital. That’s when doctors told his partner to prepare for the worst.
Back in 2013 Alex Lewis and his partner Lucy lived in Stockbridge, U.K., with their three-year-old son Sam. At the time, the couple ran a gastropub together, but in November of that year something momentous happened which stopped them in their tracks.
Alex, who was 33 at the time, could usually be found enjoying a drink with friends or playing a round of golf, but he began to feel unwell with symptoms of a cold. Considering that little Sam was also under the weather, Lucy passed her partner’s illness off as a bad bout of “man flu.”
However, Alex’s symptoms grew worse and worse. He was not just sneezing on the sofa; his temperature was sky high and his skin was changing color. Worryingly, Alex also started to see blood in his urine. It was clear that something was seriously wrong with him.
Alex’s body was under so much stress that he collapsed. Lucy called an ambulance which sped Alex straight to the Royal County Hospital, some 12 miles away in Winchester. Once there, he was rushed into the resuscitation room. It was at that point that doctors told Lucy something that she never wanted to hear.
“I was told to say goodbye. His kidneys were shutting down, and they were going to put him on life support,” Lucy told The Guardian in April 2016. What she and her partner had thought was a simple common cold turned out to be something far more sinister.
Doctors told Lucy that Alex had contracted Strep A Toxic Shock Syndrome, a complication of the very common disease Strep A. Usually, Strep A manifests itself as just a sore throat, but Alex’s condition became very serious indeed – to the point where the odds of him overcoming it were put at less than one in 30.
But Alex made it past that first terrifying night. He was put into a coma for a week and continued to fight on. Not only did Alex have Strep A Toxic Shock Syndrome, but he also developed Septicemia (blood poisoning) and Necrotising Fasciitis, a condition nicknamed the“flesh-eating disease.”
Alex’s vital organs stopped working hours after he collapsed, so he was having to rely on life support machines. But all the while, the nasty infection kept on spreading through his body, causing various parts to turn black. Extremities such as his feet, lips and nose were particularly badly affected.
The condition of his legs and one of his arms was so severe that doctors had no choice but to amputate them. It was their only hope of stopping the infection from spreading to other parts of his body, something that was happening rapidly.
Having already lost three of his limbs, Alex then needed to further operations in a bid to save his life. And this time the focus was on his face. He lost his lips and most of his nose during surgery, something that left him almost unrecognizable to his toddler son.
Following that, doctors focused their attention on saving Alex’s one remaining limb. After a 16-hour operation, they managed to save his right arm from the elbow upwards, something that he and Lucy were very grateful for. Keeping that one elbow joint represented a little bit of independence for Alex.
Despite all the trauma, Alex miraculously survived the illness that very nearly killed him. However, with three and a half of his limbs amputated there were a lot of things that he needed to learn how to do. But he impressed everyone with his speedy progress.
Just two weeks after starting a ten-week mobility course at a London hospital, Alex was already walking again, having learned to use prosthetics with a rocking foot attached. Not only that, but he familiarized himself with his prosthetic arms. These allowed him to do various things such as fetching a drink from the fridge.
Although coming to terms with what happened to him has been difficult, Alex has managed to overcome even his darkest days. Now all he wants is to enjoy time with his family because the life-changing experience taught him an important lesson.
“We could have lost it all, and now I want to spend as much time as I feasibly can with them [his family],” Alex told The Guardian. With that in mind, then, it’s no surprise that he asked Lucy to marry him.
“What happened made me reassess what’s important,” Alex reflected. He admitted to having been a “feckless young man” before the illness. What’s more, he maintains that the whole ordeal made him “fall in love with Lucy even more.”
In terms of work, Alex is now an interior designer. But he’s also been doing something else innovative with his time. In early 2018 he had a microchip implanted into the top of his left arm which has given him some more of his independence back.
Thanks to the advanced technology in the implant, Alex can now open his front door with just one movement. Prior to having the microchip fitted, he would have had to spend extra time struggling with normal keys.
“I wouldn’t go back to my old life,” Alex said. “I was just coasting.” Remarkably, and despite everything, Alex maintains that he is actually a happier person these days than he was before he fell ill. There’s no doubt that a lot of people in his position wouldn’t be able to have such an admirably positive outlook.