Mother who had hands and feet amputated after going into septic shock following birth returns home

A mother who had to have her hands and feet amputated after going into septic shock after giving birth has returned home to her children following months in the hospital.

Krystina Pacheco, 29, from Pleasanton, Texas, gave birth to her daughter Amelia via Caesarean section on 24 October 2022.

On the day she was discharged from the hospital after giving birth, Pacheco began to feel sick. The mother-of-two told ABC News that she began feeling feverish, was vomiting and experiencing shortness of breath.

She initially assumed the symptoms were related to her C-section. However, after her symptoms worsened, she went to a nearby emergency room where doctors arranged for her to be airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio. When she arrived at the hospital, doctors learned Pacheco was in septic shock.

Pacheco said that all she remembers at that point is that she “couldn’t breathe anymore” and “couldn’t see anymore”.

“I just remember I couldn’t breathe anymore and I couldn’t see anymore and I just started slowly fading out,” she told ABC News. “My husband, I could just hear him saying: ‘Please come back to us, please, your babies need you. I need you. I need you to be here and help me with our babies,’ and that’s the last thing I remember.”

Jacob Pacheco, her husband, told Kens5 that doctors sedated Pacheco for two weeks as they worked to save her from the potentially fatal medical condition.

“She was on different machines for a while, life saving machines,” he recalled.

Septic shock, the most severe stage of sepsis, is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when an infection leads to “dangerously low blood pressure,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Infection or sepsis is the second leading cause of pregnancy-related death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pacheco eventually improved enough to be taken off the machines, which included a dialysis machine to help her kidneys and a ECMO machine to remove carbon dioxide from her blood, but she woke up to the “hardest thing” she’s been through. She learned that her treatments had cut off the circulation to her hands and feet and the limbs needed to be amputated.

“My hands and feet were black. They looked like a person who had gotten frostbite,” she told ABC News. “I was just breaking down and being absolutely crushed that that’s where we were at, at that point, and crying with my family, crying with Jacob, and just being sad that my life would no longer be the same.”

Although Pacheco said her medical team had done everything they could to avoid amputating, she eventually had to undergo surgery to remove both arms below the elbows and a second surgery to remove both legs below the knees.

The mother-of-two told ABC News she also had to undergo numerous skin grafts.

Pacheco said that thoughts of her children kept her going.

“Every day I woke up and thought about my babies and every time I went into a surgery, my thought was, I have to get home to be with my babies, so if that means going through one more surgery, then ultimately I have to go through another surgery,” she told the network. “They were my number one motivation, hands down.”

After three months, Pacheco was finally discharged from the hospital in late January. She was then moved to a rehabilitation centre, where she worked on rebuilding her strength.

Despite her new hurdles, Pacheco said she surprised herself during her time in the rehab facility and reflected on the motivational talks she’d give herself when presented with each new challenge.

She returned home to her husband, two-year-old son, and newborn daughter on 11 February, a long-awaited moment that she said made her cry.

“I’m so glad I’m home. That is ultimately all I wanted every day,” Pacheco told Kens5. “I would do anything for them, that’s for sure.”

Now that she’s returned home, Pacheco will soon begin out-patient rehab as she continues to learn how to live as a double amputee, the couple told ABC News. Her husband says that although the journey forward is “not going to be easy,” he is confident he and his wife will be able to handle it together.

“It’s not easy, but if we’re sticking together, it makes it that much better,” he told ABC News.

As for the future, Pacheco told the outlet she hopes to return to work as a licensed specialist in school psychology, and hopes to share her story in the hopes of raising awareness about limb differences.

On social media, where the mother-of-two recently posted a photo showing her holding her four-month-old daughter, her story has been met with an outpouring of support.

“Blessings to you mama. Saw your story and am amazed at your resilience. Onwards and upwards,” one person wrote, while another said: “Your strength is inspiring. The fight a mama has in her is immeasurable, and you are proving it. We are all cheering you on.”

“Gorgeous girls! And she will be so strong like her mama,” someone else wrote.