Anna Norquist is a 30-year-old former gymnast who had her right arm and left leg amputated after developing toxic shock syndrome. NBC’s Today reports that Norquist will also have to have her left hand amputated.
Anna was described by her family as “perfectly healthy” when she recently moved back to South Bend, Indiana from Austin, Texas. Norquist suddenly started feeling ill while attending a concert in Chicago two weeks ago.
She was admitted to the hospital where doctors were forced to put her in a medically induced coma. She has undergone 10 surgeries and will need to undergo another one to amputate her right hand. The family hopes doctors can save her right leg.
Norquist’s family has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to cover Anna’s medical expenses.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Anna Norquist Was ‘Perfectly Healthy’ Until 2 Weeks Ago
Anna’s parents described her as a “perfectly healthy” 30-year-old former gymnast who had recently moved home to South Bend from Texas.
Two weeks ago, Anna suddenly fell ill.
“She was in Chicago on Friday, went to a concert, stayed through Saturday and drove home Sunday,” Anna’s father Gordon Norquist told Fox 59.
“It got so bad that after about 24 hours, she couldn’t even lift her head up to take a sip of water. Her kidneys hurt, she couldn’t urinate,” her brother Patrick told Today.
“She didn’t feel well and thought she was getting flu-like symptoms. Then, by Monday, she was fighting for her life,” he said.
2. Doctors Have No Idea How She Contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome
Doctors are trying to determine how Anna contracted toxic shock syndrome, which they believe was caused by an infection caused by Streptococcus— the same bacteria that causes strep throat.
“They don’t know and probably will never know exactly where the infection entered,” her father told Fox 59. “They think it was the right arm and that’s probably why they took it first.”
3. Norquist Has Had to Undergo 10 Surgeries
Norquist has undergone 10 surgeries since being admitted to the hospital. She lost her right arm and left leg and will have to have her left hand amputated because the infection has spread.
Anna’s family is hopeful that she can still make a full recovery.
“She’s a beautiful person, she has a fighting spirit,” Gordon told Fox 59. “None of the doctors expected her to survive and she is remarkable.”
“This is going to be a shock for her and a real adjustment,” he said.
“It’s been devastating,” Patrick told Today. “But I have to try to remain grateful that they were able to save her life. We can deal with life. Doctors said we had an absolute miracle that she lived through what happened.”
4. Norquist’s Family is Trying to Raise Money for Her Medical Expenses
If all goes well, Anna is expected to remain in the hospital for another four to six months.
Her family is appealing for donations on GoFundMe to cover Anna’s medical costs. The family has raised more than $63,000 of their $350,000 goal.
“Anna Norquist, the strong, bold and beautiful, is in a crisis. As is her beautiful family,” the page says. “She has been attacked by Toxic Shock Syndrome caused by Streptococcus A. Miraculously, against all odds, she is still alive but she is still very, very sick. The doctor said she should not have survived. When she is stable enough to survive the surgeries, she will have both of her arms amputated and the doctors told us to be prepared for one of her legs to be amputated.”
“She has had compartmental surgery on both of her arms and both of her legs. She is sliced open from head to toe,” the page said. “At best, she will have multiple surgeries and multiple amputations. They will be life altering. But, whatever she faces, we, her family, will support her as best we can, but, both now and over the long term, we will need help from all her friends, our friends and all loving and generous strangers. Please do what you can to help us help Anna. God bless you.”
5. Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome is Very Rare
Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening complication of a bacterial infection. TSS is usually caused by the same bacteria that causes staph infections. TSS is often associated with women who use tampons during their periods though the National Institutes of Health report that less than half of TSS cases are related to tampons. Tampons were not involved in Anna’s case.
Dr. Shira Doron of the Tufts Medical Center explained to Today that Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is less common. It is caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat and can have devastating effects.
“It is a complete system shutdown, basically,” Doron told the outlet. “All of the organs can suffer from failure… you can have gangrene and death of fingers, hands, toes, feet, which is why people end up with amputations.”
Doron said “you have to have some kind of risk factor: a minor trauma, a cut or a bruise or even a muscle strain that makes the skin or muscle susceptible for bacteria to get in there and then set up shop.”
“Any time you have a viral respiratory infection that gets better and worse again, that’s an indication to see your doctor because that’s when you may be getting a group A strep infection on top of your viral infection and then it can turn into invasive group A strep,” Doron added.