Canyon Lake resident Amy Martinez is a wife and mother of two small children. She is also a fighter, survivor and recent triple amputee.
For 27-year-old Amy Martinez, February 24, 2015 started off just like any other day. By the end of the day, Amy’s life would be forever changed. By the end of May, Amy would have both legs and her right hand amputated.
Amy, a personal assistant for a promotional company in Santa Ana, was at work on the afternoon of February 24 when she started to have excruciating pain in her lower stomach. Her boss excused her from work early. The pain in her stomach became so unbearable on the drive home from work that she phoned her husband, Ryan, to let him know she was going to Urgent Care.
A urine sample was taken at Urgent Care. The sample tested positive for a kidney stone, which is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Having had a kidney stone in the past, Amy knew there wasn’t much the doctor could do; she just had to wait for the kidney stone to pass. The doctor gave her some pain medication and sent her on her way.
The next day, February 25, she was out of it for most of the day. She was still very much in pain and could not get up without assistance.
On Thursday, February 26, Amy called her work to say she was still sick and would not be going to work. She tried to carry on with her day but it was impossible; she was in too much pain and couldn’t stop shaking. Later that day, she noticed that her toes were turning blue and that the tips of her fingers were changing colors, too.
“I thought it was just an allergic reaction to the medicine the doctor prescribed me,” says Amy. She was going to wait for Ryan to come home from work to take her to the hospital, but she decided to call her mother instead. That decision saved her life. By the time she and her mother arrived in the emergency room, Amy’s lips had turned blue and she could not speak. The nurse immediately recognized that Amy was going into septic shock.
Sepsis can be caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. Septic shock is a medical condition that results from severe infection and sepsis. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Septic Shock is a serious condition that occurs when a body-wide infection leads to dangerously low blood pressure. Septic shock has a high death rate. The death rate depends on the patient’s age and overall health, the cause of the infection, how many organs have failed, and how quickly and aggressively medical therapy is started.
Respiratory failure, cardiac failure or any other organ failure can occur. Gangrene may also occur, possibly leading to amputation. Prompt treatment of bacterial infections is helpful. However, many cases of septic shock cannot be prevented.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sepsis ranges from less to more severe. As sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs, such as your brain, heart and kidneys, becomes impaired. Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in your organs and in your arms, legs, fingers and toes, leading to varying degrees of organ failure and tissue death (gangrene). Most people recover from mild sepsis, but the mortality rate for septic shock is nearly 50 percent. Also, an episode of severe sepsis may place you at higher risk of future infections.”
Twenty minutes after arriving at the hospital, Amy was put into a medically induced coma and the doctor was calling Ryan at work to ask permission to put her on life support. The doctor told Ryan that Amy had a 10 percent chance of survival and that she might not make it through the night. All Ryan could do was pray.
As soon as Amy was stable, she was transferred to another hospital in Riverside County. Days later she was removed from life support. She awakened, she survived. Ryan then had the difficult task of explaining to his wife what had happened to her, and that there was a possibility she would have to have her legs amputated because of gangrene.
On March 11, Amy had both of her legs amputated below the knee, around mid-calf, due to an infection and gangrene. Amy was in disbelief but grateful to be alive. “At that moment, life felt impossible, but I serve a bigger God and believe He will use my trials for a great good,” says Amy.
She began rehab on March 21. She spent 10 days in rehab leaning how to adjust to her new life without her legs. “Rehab was incredibly helpful,” says Ryan. Amy was released from rehab on her son’s 4th birthday.
In a video diary taped April 9, Amy says, “We’ve been super busy, going 100 miles an hour, appointments every day ranging from one to three at a time. Ryan’s been having to take care of everything and do everything for me and for the kids – cooking, showering, cleaning and laundry.
On April 10, Amy had surgery to have three kidney stones removed from her left kidney. On April 26, she posted the following message on her Facebook page, “One of the first really, really good days we’ve had. First time to church since this all happened. We had lunch together as a family, compliments of an anonymous Good Samaritan. Thank you. Now just playtime and dinner with relatives.”
Unfortunately, dry gangrene had spread to Amy’s hands. Gangrene is a medical term used to describe the death of an area of the body. It develops when the blood supply is cut off to the affected part as a result of various processes, such as infection, vascular (pertaining to blood vessels) disease, or trauma. Gangrene can involve any part of the body; the most common sites include the toes, fingers, feet and hands.
On May 6, Amy’s right hand was amputated. On May 7, Ryan posted this message on his wife’s Facebook page:
“Good morning. I just wanted to give everyone an update on Amy. Praise God her surgery went very well and ran a little longer then planned. She rested for most of the day and wanted to wait until the morning for an update. She’s also in a lot of pain. We are doing everything possible to suppress her pains and comfort her. Relying completely on pain meds is simply not enough at this time. She recognizes this is a spiritual battle and tries to replace “pain for prayer.” Lord willing we head home today but haven’t heard anything yet on that matter. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and thank God for each and everyone who is supporting my wife and our little family. We love you all.”
Sometime this month, Amy will be having surgery to have her left hand amputated. “They might be able to save a small portion of my wrist, which means I might still be able to have some wrist movement,” she says.
Amy feels that there is still much to be grateful for, saying, “I am thankful to be alive and that the situation wasn’t any worse. There are other people who lost their eyesight because of septic shock. I am thankful to still have mine.”
Currently, Ryan is staying home from work to care for Amy and their two children – 14-month-old Harper and 4-year-old Liam – but he’ll soon have to return to his job where he works as an operations engineer.
“This has taken a toll on Ryan,” says Amy. “He has to do everything now – the cooking, cleaning and caring for both the kids and me. Sometimes all three of us need him at once.
Ryan says, “Sure, this is extremely overwhelming; but honestly, I love my wife more today then I did when we said ‘I do.’ I remember that she used to ask me to rub her feet all the time, and because I was so tired from working I would tell her no or come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t. Now, as I sit here looking at her, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to rub her feet again; to go for a walk with her or to just simply hold her hand. God is holding us together as a couple and I will do everything I can to help her feel like her old self again,”
Amy recently received her prosthetic legs. A medical fund has been set up to help offset the cost, which can range from $70,000 to $100,000 per pair. About $19,000 had been donated at this writing.
Thor’s Hope Foundation has gifted Amy with a Belgian Malinois service dog. After the dog goes through three to four months of training, it will be able to assist Amy with such tasks as picking up dropped items, retrieving items, and opening and closing doors.
Amy and Ryan are so grateful for the prayers and support they’ve received from their family, friends, community members and complete strangers. Fundraisers, meal trains and donations were organized for the family. Amy says, “There really are no words to describe how grateful Ryan and I are for the support. It’s a very clear sign to us that God’s got our back. We have a new family motto, ‘Hands or no hands, feet or nor feet, God will be praised.’”
“Life is going to be okay,” she adds. “God is at the center of my strength; but I have daily struggles I go through that require me to focus upon Him. He uses my husband Ryan and my kids, Liam and Harper, to give me hope and motivation to press on. At the same moment, I struggle greatly not being there for them like I wish I could be. For instance, holding my husband’s hand and rubbing his back to comfort him or to have the ability to care for my kids like I was able to before.
“I know in time I’ll be able to use prosthetics to help get a lot of that back but it will never be the same like I wished it could be. Ryan is the one who mainly gets me ready and does my hair and makeup, and that can be an extreme struggle when including our little ones. I truly miss the independence and excitement by getting myself ready before a date with him to show a mysterious surprise of how hard I tried to be beautiful for him.”
Amy recently suffered another blow. Her best friend, Samantha Seaman, who was by her side throughout her ordeal, lost her husband on May 12. Samantha’s husband was 30-year-old Eric Seaman, one of the six U.S. Marines aboard a helicopter that crashed during a humanitarian relief mission in Nepal.
Those who would like to donate to Amy’s medical fund may do so at www.youcaring.com. In the search window, type “Amy’s Medical Fund.” Amy has set up a Facebook page to journal her progress and struggles. Follow her at www.facebook.com/Amysjournal