Kim Steele: Sepsis Survivor Uses Second Chance at Life to Pay it Forward

In May 2016, Kim Steele’s life changed forever when she went into septic shock due to a reaction to a new medication she was taking to manage Crohn’s Disease. She was rushed to the ER, put into a medically-induced coma, and was given less than a nine percent chance of surviving through the night. Doctors worked extremely hard to save her life, but in the process, Kim experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction which led doctors to eventually amputate both hands at the wrists and both legs below the knee. Kim could have gone down the path of deep depression but instead chose to use her second chance at life to pay it forward. She’s now a successful quadrilateral prosthetic user who is using her story to provide hope and inspiration to other sepsis survivors.


Waking Up to a New Way of Life

When Kim Steele woke up from her medically-induced coma, she not only learned she was fighting the most severe form of sepsis – septic shock – she learned she was fighting for her life. At that time, she didn’t even know what sepsis was let alone what it would take to overcome it. She quickly learned that sepsis was her body’s toxic response to an infection, and her reaction was so bad that she had only a nine percent chance of survival. Thankfully, her body had enough strength left in it to fight. Her perseverance mixed with her doctors’ expertise brought her to the point where she was able to breathe again on her own. 

The joy of knowing she would survive was short-lived as Kim soon realized her hands would need to be amputated due to anaphylaxis. This life-threatening allergic reaction caused her hands and feet to turn black, and her hands could not be salvaged. She had a small chance of keeping her legs, so her team decided to give her a few months to heal and then would decide what to do. 

It’s Not a Setback, It’s a Comeback

In June 2016 – just one month after her fateful visit to the ER – Kim’s doctors amputated her hands at the wrists, and she officially began her healing journey through rehabilitation. After starting out at another rehab center, she eventually found her place at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. Thanks to the inspiring staff at Warm Springs, it was there that she found her drive to move forward. 

Unfortunately, after months of treating her leg wounds, Kim’s doctors decided amputation was the only way forward. So, in November of 2016, she underwent a bilateral below-knee amputation at about eight inches above each foot. For her care team, getting Kim into prosthetic hands and legs was always the end goal. She wanted (and needed) to be able to go about her daily activities like she used to, and with the help of her Hanger Clinic prosthetist Ray Coble, CPO she was able to reach her goal.

Ray went above and beyond for Kim. He visited her at Warm Springs for casting and returned again and again to ensure the proper fit and function of her devices. She was fit with her prosthetic hands in September 2016 and prosthetic legs in December 2016, and thanks to the amazing care provided by her occupational and physical therapists, she walked out of Warm Springs in February 2017 on her own two feet.

I’m very thankful and blessed to be a part of the Hanger family. They are always there when I need them. I’ve not only received phenomenal care, I’ve met lifelong friends.

Kim Steele, Hanger Clinic Patient

A Greater Purpose

Today, Kim can do anything she sets her mind to. From the simple things – tying her own shoes, cooking, hanging her clothes, and making her bed – to walking a 5K, driving, and skydiving, she doesn’t take one moment for granted. She knows how lucky she is to be alive and now realizes her purpose is greater than she ever could have predicted.

Kim’s renewed purpose is to help others. Through the Sepsis Alliance, she works hard to educate everyone she can about sepsis, and as an AMPOWER Certified Peer Visitor, she meets with new amputees one-on-one to provide support, hope, and encouragement as they begin their own, personal healing journey. If she can help just one person overcome what they’ve been through, then her purpose will be fulfilled.

To learn more about how to prevent sepsis, visit Sepsis.org

Watch Kim’s Story on Fox 5 Atlanta

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