Published February 05, 2014
An Oregon main claims that he lost his fingers and toes after he contracted the bubonic plague from his pet cat.
In a post published in the Guardian, Paul Gaylord detailed how his cat Charlie had gone missing for a couple of days in the Cascade mountains. When Charlie returned, Gaylord could tell something was wrong with the cat and saw that a mouse was stuck in his mouth. When he tried to pull the rodent out, Charlie accidentally bit him.
The next day, Gaylord said the cat was “clearly suffering” and had to be put down. Soon afterward, Gaylord started to feel sick himself, developing a high fever, flu-like symptoms and grey, painful skin. His symptoms continued to worsen, and he was eventually taken to an intensive care unit.
At the hospital, a doctor diagnosed Gaylord with the bubonic plague. Soon he was put on full life support and hooked up to a dialysis machine – before slipping into a coma.
“I was in a coma for 27 days, during which my hands and feet swelled up and began to turn black,” Gaylord wrote. “When I finally woke up, I just remember feeling incredibly thirsty. My doctor told me I had developed all three stages of the plague: bubonic (the least lethal form, which infects the lymphatic system), pneumonic (which infects the lungs) and septicaemic (the bloodstream). Some people have survived bubonic plague, but not all three, apparently.”
After a month in the hospital, Gaylord returned home, but he continued to live with dead fingers and toes. At first, doctors thought they would have to amputate his hands and feet, but they were able to only remove his fingers and all the toes on his left foot. About a third of his right foot is also gone.
To determine the source of the plague, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dug up Gaylord’s cat and sent it to a lab in North Carolina. There it was confirmed the cat had been infected.
“It's hard to believe it happened to me, but rather than feel depressed, I've always felt positive and happy to be alive,” Gaylord wrote. “…I think it's just a fluke that I caught this. Now I hope to make people aware of the illness. If you know the symptoms and what to look for, you stand a much better chance of surviving.”