GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) – Kevin Breen, 44, has always been an active guy, the type to jump on a water ski or ride the waves on his surf board. His wife and two small children are always by his side.
That makes it especially hard to come to terms with this: Breen starts the first of four surgeries today to completely amputate his left hand, amputate multiple fingers on the right, and amputate both his feet.
An extremely rare case of strep throat almost cost the Grand Rapids father and husband his life; It settled for his hands and feet.
Breen’s ordeal started with an ailment two days after Christmas that turned into sharp stomach pain that sent him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with acute mild pancreatitis.
An exploratory surgery found an astonishing 1.5 liters of pus in his stomach, but the source wasn’t obvious.
There was no infection in his blood.
Later, his organs began shutting down and his blood supply left his extremities and rushed to save his organs, leaving his hands and feet to die. Doctors told his family to prepare for the worst.
Dr. Elizabeth Steensma, an acute care surgeon at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, said Breen had gone into “horrible septic shock.”
“He was one of the sickest patients that we’ve ever taken care of,” she told WWJ’s Zahra Huber. “So, over the next couple of days we really struggled…There was quite awhile when he was pretty tenuous and we were very, very worried.”
Luckily, a rash was spotted on his chest that made doctors suspect a strep infection, especially since his son had recently been diagnosed with strep.
A test was positive and Breen was treated with penicillin, which fought back the infection. His health recovered, but it was too late for his hands and feet.
Steensma noted that it’s extraordinarily rare for strep to travel from the throat to the stomach. It’s been documented 32 times in history, but always before in women. Breen is only the second man ever documented with this experience.
“Group A strep is a very, very…it’s a huge spectrum of what it can do. It’s extremely common, you know. Over a million cases are diagnosed every years just in the United States alone,” Steensma said, adding that most patients recover without any serious issues.
Breen has returned home, but he’s unable to work so the family is relying on his wife’s teaching salary. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with hospital costs.
Donors have raised more than $20,000 and included messages of hope and love. “Heartbreaking but the love of family and those cute little faces of your children will give you the strength to move forward. God Bless!” Marti Bowen wrote with her Go Fund Me donation.
Another wrote: “Sending prayers to you and love one . God bless you, and always keep that smile and positive attitude my friend.”
Breen is still managing to smile, WOOD-TV found, even with these monumental difficulties.
“Life is forever going to be different,” his wife told the TV station. “But different doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. It’s just going to be what we make it and we just have to figure it out, figure it out for our kids. Dad’s going to have cool hands, Dad’s going to have cool feet. We have to be positive.”