A mother-of-six had to have her hands and legs amputated after what started as a common cold turned into life-threatening pneumonia and a blood infection.
Tiffany King, 38, was rushed to a hospital in Provo, Utah, in mid-January after waking up in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing.
She slipped into a coma and was diagnosed with viral and bacterial pneumonia that lead to sepsis – giving her a 15 percent chance of survival.
When she woke up from the coma at the end of January, she was told that both of her hands and both of her legs would need to be amputated.
Nearly two months later Tiffany is undergoing physical therapy and has her mind set on being able to walk down the aisle at her wedding in October.
Tiffany King, 38, caught a cold in Springsville, Utah, in January that led to viral and bacterial pneumonia and sepsis. When she woke from a coma her fiancé Moale Fonohema, right, told her she needed a quadruple amputation
Tiffany is a dental technician living in Springsville, Utah, with her fiancé Moale Fonohema and their six kids ages four to 27 – three of whom are hers, two are his and one they adopted together.
When Tiffany was in her 20s she found out she carried a gene for a severe type of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis that affects the spine and large joints in the body.
To treat it, she started taking Humera, an immunosuppressant that weakens the immune system.
In mid-January Tiffany came down with a cold, and one night she woke up with trouble breathing, so her fiance – nicknamed Moe – brought her to a 24-hour clinic.
From there she was sent in an ambulance to a hospital in Provo where she slipped into a coma and was diagnosed with viral and bacterial pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs and is most commonly caused by bacteria and viruses – or in Tiffany’s case, both.
Viral pneumonia invades the lungs and cases swelling that blocks the flow of oxygen and increases the likelihood of developing bacterial pneumonia, which infects and inflames the air sacs in the lungs causing them to fill up with fluid.
The combination of the swelling and the fluid explains why Tiffany was unable to breathe.
Tiffany is pictured with fiancé Moale Fonohema – nicknamed Moe – and five of their six kids – three of whom are hers, two are his and one they adopted together
When she was in her 20s Tiffany found out she carried a gene for a severe type of arthritis and began taking Humera, an immunosuppressant that weakens the immune system. She is pictured left with Moe and right with a friend
While she was in the coma and being treated for the pneumonia, her liver and kidneys began to fail.
By the end of January Tiffany had developed sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection that kills 30 percent of patients.
Sepsis occurs in response to an infection, commonly pneumonia, when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the body.
It also critically-low blood pressure that can lead to organ failure.
Tiffany’s chances of survival went from 70 percent to 30 to 15 in a matter of days.
‘Doctors said that we should start making (funeral) arrangements,’ Moe told People.
He stayed by her bedside every night waiting for her to wake up.
‘It was scary, but I knew that she could get through it. She’s a tough person and I wasn’t about to give up on her. To be honest, we have wedding plans and I knew that we both wanted more than anything to see them happen.’
The doctors put Tiffany on Levophed, a common sepsis treatment that counteracts the low blood pressure by diverting blood from the limbs to the organs so they can continue to function.
When she came out of the coma, Moe broke the news that she would need a quadruple amputation of her hands and legs.
‘When he told me that the lack of blood flow to my arms and legs meant that a quadruple amputation was necessary in order for me to live, I didn’t hesitate to say: “Let’s do it,”‘ Tiffany told People.
When Tiffany came out of the coma, Moe broke the news that she would need a quadruple amputation of her hands and legs
Throughout her time in the hospital, Tiffany has been surrounded by friends and family
Tiffany said she has always been a positive person and intends to stay that way despite the long road to recovery ahead of her
Tiffany describes herself as an active person, and said she knows the amputation will affect that.
‘I love to turn up the music around the house and dance, and I enjoy snowboarding and horses,’ she said. ‘So sure, it was shocking to hear that I had to lose my arms and legs, but I know that we’ll figure it out. I have a lot of people cheering me on.’
While she recovers in the hospital and goes to physical therapy to learn how to do everyday tasks without the help of her hands, Tiffany’s family and friends are working to make her home as accessible and comfortable as possible.
They also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for prosthetic arms and legs that will cost $225,000 and insurance won’t cover.
The page has raised $60,000 as of Tuesday morning.
‘If I can get enough to pay for those prosthetics, I’m going to work very hard every single day so that I can walk again,’ Tiffany said.
‘The first thing I want to do is walk down the aisle to marry Moe. That’s my biggest dream now, and I’d love for it to come true this fall.’
Moe added: ‘With arms and legs or without them, I’m here for her — I love her. She was worried how I’d feel about her after the amputation, but nothing has changed.
‘”You’re my rock,” I told her. “And I’ll be your hands and feet.”‘
While she knows she has a long road to recovery ahead of her, Tiffany said she has always been a positive person and intends to stay that way.
‘Of course, there are days when I ask: “God, why did this happen to me?” But I’m so thankful to be alive and to have a future with my family,’ she said.
‘There are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t be here but I am. So I’m going to make the very best of the situation, work hard and tackle every difficult task the best that I can for the people I love.’
A GoFundMe page has raised $60,000 for Tiffany’s prosthetics which will cost around $225,000 and are not covered by insurance