Mom has limbs amputated after going into septic shock following kidney stone surgery


(NEW YORK) — Cindy Mullins was a healthy 41-year-old mom of two when she went into the hospital nearly six weeks ago for surgery on kidney stones.

On Friday, Mullins is finally going home after a life-changing experience that resulted in both of her legs being amputated, and both of her hands scheduled to be amputated soon.

“The hardest part about this is I miss my children, of course,” Mullins told “Good Morning America.” “Without my faith, I don’t think I could be where I’m at today. The plan is on Sunday morning, I’m going to church, and I cannot wait for that.”

Mullins, who lives in Kentucky with her husband and their 7-year-old and 12-year-old sons, said she went to the hospital on Dec. 1 for an elective procedure to remove kidney stones. The doctor left a temporary stent in her body following the surgery to prevent blockage, as is common in kidney stone procedures, according to the American Urological Association.

In Mullins’ case, she said she removed the stent at home, per medical orders, and soon after began to feel sick. When her husband found her collapsed on the bathroom floor, she said he rushed her to their local hospital.

“They checked my blood pressure and it was 50 over 31, and in my mind, I knew that was not good,” said Mullins, a nurse who has worked for a family medicine practice for nearly 20 years. “They started IVs on both arms, and I don’t remember anything after that.”

When doctors performed tests on Mullins, they discovered she had a kidney stone surrounded by infection, and that she was in septic shock, with her organs starting to fail.

Septic shock is the most dangerous stage of sepsis, when your body has an extreme response to infection. If it is not treated quickly, septic shock can lead to “tissue damage, organ failure, and even death,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

In septic shock, the body has dangerously low blood pressure. Risk factors include a recent infection or surgical procedure.

Mullins had to be stabilized and placed on a ventilator before she was able to be transferred to a larger hospital in Lexington, where she said doctors warned her family she was in dire condition.

“My husband and sister were there and they told them that I was on the edge of a cliff and it was about to get worse before it got better,” Mullins recalled. “After the surgery, I was put on ECMO and dialysis, and was still on the ventilator.”

Mullins was put on dialysis to help her kidneys, and an ECMO machine — a lifesaving device that removes carbon dioxide from the blood and sends back blood with oxygen to the body — to give her heart and lungs time to rest and heal.

Over the next several days, Mullins said her organ function began to improve, but she developed blisters on her legs and arms. When she was taken off the ventilator and conscious again, Mullins said she was told both her legs and hands had deteriorated to the point they would require amputation.

“When they told me that was going to happen, that I was going to lose my hands and my feet, I wasn’t angry,” Mullins said. “I had a peace about me. I just felt God’s presence saying, ‘It’s going to be OK. You’re alive. This is what has happened,’ and I wasn’t upset about it.”

The following day, Mullins underwent surgery to amputate both her legs above the knee.

She said she expects to undergo another surgery to amputate both hands in the coming weeks. Her doctor, according to Mullins, is working to try to preserve as much of her arm as possible and amputate below her elbow joints.

Despite all that she has endured, Mullins said she is doing well medically, and is now just coping with the amputations and moving forward in what she calls her “new normal.”

“Doctors tell me they can’t put a percentage on how close I was to actually dying, and then me doing as well as I am after being on ventilator, ECMO and dialysis… for me to be doing that well, as fast I did, is yet another miracle,” Mullins said.

Mullins said she had no preexisting medical conditions prior to going into septic shock, adding that what happened to her is a “rare case.”

“It was just one of those things where they explain all the bad things that can happen when you have surgery, and I was that rare case,” she said. “I was really healthy.”

Mullins said her family and her community have rallied around her as she has spent the past two weeks in a rehabilitation facility, learning how to be as independent as possible. She said her husband DJ and their sons Teegan and Easton have helped care for her, from feeding her and brushing her hair to just sitting by her side.

Dr. Nate Thomas, the University of Kentucky-based physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist overseeing Mullins’ care, said Mullins has put in the work through near daily three-hour physical therapy sessions to get to where she is today.

“The attitude that she’s had in staying positive, staying upbeat and doing everything that she can has been something that’s been truly amazing,” Thomas told “GMA.” “I don’t think that’s something that should be taken lightly, given the situation that she’s in and having gone through a lot. I think her whole [medical] team is ready to take a lesson from her mindset and the way that she’s really gone through this.”

In addition to friends and family offering in-person help, a GoFundMe started for the family has raised over $250,000.

When she returns home, Mullins said she will rely on a power wheelchair to be able to move around independently, and will later be fitted for prosthetics so she can ultimately walk on her own. In what Mullins called a “blessing in disguise,” she said she and her husband live in her husband’s childhood home, which had been made wheelchair accessible years ago to accommodate her father-in-law.

Describing all the support she and her family have received, Mullins said she “can never say thank you enough.”

“That has kind of been hard for me to wrap my head around,” she said of the support. “I’m a normal person, and for these people to do those things for me is just, you know, that’s another God thing.”


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