A brave man who has lost three of his limbs and parts of his face to a bacterial infection is determined to live as normal a life as possible Alex Lewis, 34, from Stockbridge thought he was suffering from a sore throat but he was harbouring a deadly bug which nearly killed him.
He had gone to bed early feeling unwell on a Saturday night in November. He awoke at 2am, passing blood in his urine. His skin turned purple and his eyes dilated.
Medics at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester diagnosed a blood infection, Group A streptococcus, a normally harmless bacteria which the human body should filter out but in Alex’s case developed into septicaemia and toxic shock syndrome.
Alex’s major organs shut down and he was put into a drug-induced coma for a week to help him recover enough to fight the infection.
Partner Lucy Townsend said: “When we got to intensive care they said ‘Go and say goodbye’, basically.
“They took me to a room and told me there was a three per cent chance of his survival.”
Friends and family could only sit and watch, day by day, as gangrene set in. Alex’s feet, fingertips, arms, lips, nose and even the tips of his ears turned black as the flesh died.
Remarkably, Alex survived and was transferred to Salisbury District Hospital, where he was told the only one option to save his life was amputation. He was told he would lose both his legs and surgeons would also have to amputate his left arm above the elbow. Remarkably, he remained positive.
“My life will never be the same again, our family life will never be the same again, but I feel lucky,” says Alex, “I’m lucky to be alive today. To be able to have the chance to walk the dog with my son again in the countryside, something as simple as that, just like I used to, well that’s just amazing.”
The former Peter Symonds and Hampshire Collegiate School student, who used to play golf for the county aged 16, faced operations throughout December and January, including 16 hours of surgery on Christmas Eve to save his remaining arm.
They took muscle from his back to rebuild the dead arm in the hope that he will regain sensation in his hand.
“I’ve got no use of my fingers yet, but they hope in time the tendons and muscles will finally work their way through and I may get the use of my thumb and forefinger, but otherwise it may be another amputation,” said Alex.
“The fact I have my hand is amazing. I’ve learned along the way that all the quadruple amputees I’ve met through either war or illness say the one thing they’d kill for is a hand, so I was very lucky that surgeons here could save it.”
The hardest moment for Alex wasn’t coping with the physical pain, but his son’s reaction to his appearance after he lost his lips.
“He refused to go near me. He could get his head around the legs and the arm, but then last Saturday he came the closest he’s come to me since it happened.
“I put my arm stump out and touched him and I said: ‘Look at that’ and he said, ‘No, get off’, but then I flexed my bicep even though it was agony and he just fell about laughing. He absolutely loved it.”
Lucy added: “The only way we could explain it to him is that Daddy is like a Power Ranger, or a Transformer. Daddy is having new legs, blue Power Ranger legs, and now Sam’s going around saying, ‘My daddy’s a Power Ranger’, so he thinks it’s pretty cool.”
Once he has recovered from the operations, Alex will be transferred to a specialist unit in Roehampton where he will be fitted with prosthetic limbs and undergo rehabilitation.
Alex already has his sights on amputee golf competitions and can’t wait to walk his beloved Labrador, Holly, again.
“I think walking on prosthetic legs for the first time will be absolute elation when it happens,” he said.
Alex is a full-time dad and Lucy runs Michelin pub of the Year, The Greyhound on the Test.
They also ran The King’s Arms, in Lockerley, but were forced to sell up after Alex became ill.
Alex says: “In a strange way, it is the most amazing thing I have ever lived through and I think nothing but good will come from it.
“We have all got a resilience within us, but it just doesn’t get tested. As a family, we have been tested in the last four months to the max.
“But you have to make the best of the situation, realise what you have got, not what you haven’t got.”
Trust for Al
The Al Lewis Trust has been set up to help fund rehabilitation costs for Alex as the couple search for a suitable home and ways to help him re-establish his independence.
It will also support the intensive care unit at Salisbury District Hospital where Alex is being treated.
High-profile fund-raising events have already been announced including a golf day organised by former TV presenter, Dickie Davies, a blow-dry by hairdresser to the stars, Guy Kremer and a fishing day. Stockbridge Fete will support Alex this year and friends of the family have also announced fundraisers.
The trust will be run from The Greyhound. To support Alex, email thegreyhoundon thetest.co.uk.