How strep led to an Apopka man waking up without his hands and feet

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Every day, Kevin Kelley wakes up tucked under the covers of his bed feeling good. Then he pulls back the blankets to realize: “I don’t have any hands and feet.”

“And that’s every day,” he said.

It’s been almost 11 months since the first time Kelley woke up in a hospital bed to find out that he no longer had fingers, toes, wrists or ankles.


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“The day I woke up and found I had no feet and no hands was kind of a shock,” he said.

What started as a mild fever and a strep infection turned into sepsis and rare, often deadly infection. To save his life, doctors had to perform a quadruple amputation.

Channel 9 reporter Steve Barrett interviewed Kelley’s girlfriend, Lynn Garapic, from a hospital room hallway by FaceTime while Kelley underwent his 10th surgery in March.

“It was devastating,” she said. “It's something you never want anyone to go through and you don't expect to go through yourself.”

Doctors told her to call Kelley’s sons in Hawaii and tell them to get on a flight. Their father had a 10 percent chance of survival.

Eleven months later, Kelley still remembers almost nothing from his brush with death in the form of a rare, deadly condition called purpura fulminans that causes your skin to rot – hands and feet first.

“Then the day I woke up, I finally realized I was awake and saw hands wrapped and feet wrapped. I had no idea this had taken place,” he said.

READ: Mild fever leads to man’s multiple amputations, 10 surgeries in Orange County

The former Uber driver has spent the better part of the last year getting used to a new normal; one where he remembers each morning that he no longer has limbs and straps on his prosthetics to get around.

He said he likes prosthetics that look like real feet and wears sandals so he can look down and see his toes.

“Seeing the feet makes me happy,” he said.

Out in public he said passersby often thank him for his service, thinking he lost his limbs in combat.

“I get that all the time … I always tell them, ‘Nah, I got sick you know.’”

People are even more puzzled when he tells them it all started with a case of strep.

READ: 6-year-old dancer loses leg to strep throat infection, other leg in danger

It makes him happy to know his story helps others have a better appreciation for life as they know it.

“We were walking in Publix and a lady comes up to Lynn and says, ‘I’ll never complain another day in my life’ because she saw me walking around the store,” he said.

Kelley said the experience shifted his outlook on life as well – encouraging him to try to help out the underdog.

“If somebody’s down and out – I want to see if I can help ‘em,” he said.

Watch Channel 9 reporter Steve Barrett’s previous interview with Kelley’s girlfriend below:

Steve Barrett

Steve Barrett, WFTV.com

Reporter Steve Barrett returned to WFTV in mid-2017 after 18 months in the Twin Cities, where he worked as Vice President of Communications for an Artificial Intelligence software firm aligned with IBM.