THE DEVASTATING ALLURE OF MEDICAL MIRACLES

WIRED | David Dobbs

After sepsis forced the amputation of Sheila Advento's hands, an intricate transplant technique made her whole again. Then came the side effects. DAN WINTERS
Sheila Advento was not feeling well. It was July 6, 2003, and her mother’s house in northern New Jersey was filled with people. Sheila and her mom were there, along with Sheila’s boyfriend, sister, and brother-in-law—a slice of a huge extended family, many of whom, like Sheila and her parents, had immigrated to the US from the Philippines. They ate cheeseburgers and adobo and raised Pabst Blue Ribbon and San Miguel to toast one another, independence, good health, and freedom—almost all of which Sheila, who was 26, was about to lose.

For days she’d been having headaches. Her stomach wasn’t right. She was starting to think she had the flu. She trudged to a basement bedroom to lie down. Family members took turns checking on her. When her mother, Peachie, looked in around dinner time, she found Sheila lying on the bathroom floor. Peachie, who was a nurse manager at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, took one look at her daughter and knew she was in trouble. Sheila, she said, I have to take you to the hospital. Your lips are blue. In the car, Sheila had trouble breathing. Her last memory before blacking out was someone lifting her hand to put one of those white clips on her dusky blue finger.

Sheila was in acute septic shock. An infection in her bloodstream had unleashed an inflammatory storm. Her body was shutting down, starting with the limbs. The ER team blasted her with antibiotics and fluids and eased her into an induced coma. They wanted her body, undistracted by mind or maintenance, to focus on the fight ahead. Continue reading

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