BLOOMING GROVE, Texas — Wyndi Atkins says she has let go of any blame that that you might expect she carries after a devastating medical emergency. That kind of anger will destroy you, the wife and mom in Blooming Grove, Texas will tell you.
The quadruple amputee says she just wants a little help to feel “normal” again.
In her kitchen, just getting a glass of flavored ice water can be a uniquely difficult chore.
“I have to use my legs and my upper arms and my body strength to twist the cap,” she said, as she removed a bottle of purified water from her refrigerator.
Then, she clenched a small plastic bottle of citrus flavor in her teeth.
“And then I’ll turn it upside down with my teeth, and then I just squirt it in,” she said. “That’s how I make my water.”
Also, moving around her home in an electric wheelchair, is how Atkins makes a life for herself after her life suddenly changed.
“Three years ago,” she said. “It happened in October of 2019 when I got sick.”
Atkins, 44, says it was an elective nerve decompression surgery to help with migraines.
“And so I had an incision that started at the base of my neck and went up the back of my skull,” she said. But two weeks later, after a trip to her local doctor, she was life-flighted to UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas.
“One of the sutures tested positive for strep. And so, it entered my blood stream and went toxic,” said Atkins.
She spent 13 days in a medically-induced coma. Thirteen days as the blood stopped flowing to her hands and feet.
“So, December, they amputated. They did all four amputations at once.”
But the reason Atkins invited WFAA to her home, these three years later, wasn’t to blame anyone for those first difficult days or the difficult days she’s adjusted to now.
“A really, really bad depression,” she said, of those first months home from the hospital. “I didn’t want the world to see me without hands or without feet. I just kept feeling sorry for myself.”
She says she has let go of that part of her story. All she wants now is a little help.
Her insurance has paid for a prosthetic leg for her left that was amputated mid-shin and a shoe attachment for her right. On that leg, she still has at least some of her right ankle.
Atkins was also given prosthetic skin-color forearms and hands. But they only have a pincher grasp with the thumb and forefinger. They are enough to pick up objects and perhaps open a jar, but Atkins says they will crush her iPhone.
“That’s all it does,” she said, while opening and closing the right prosthetic hand.
Atkins says her applications for better help, perhaps mechanical hands, like I-Limb hands by Ossur, hands with fingers that can open and close independently, are always denied.
“And I have the ability to get some, but you’re telling me no, they’re experimental,” she said.
“And sometimes I want to say let’s amputate your hands and let’s see how experimental your hands are,” she joked. “You don’t really think about everything that your fingers do… until you don’t have ’em.”
So, she has turned to GoFundMe as a last resort. Each hand could cost as much as $25,000. But she says what they could give her is priceless… and simple.
“I just want to feel normal again, you know,” Atkins said.
“I know I’m never going to be normal. But just having the ability to do things that everybody else can do that they don’t seem to think about, you know,” she said, while wiping away tears.
For now, Atkins gets by as best she can. Her mobile phone is always on speaker to stay in touch with the outside world. She has enough dexterity with her amputated limbs to operate some iPhone apps, like paint-by-number apps, to help her pass the time.
“It keeps my mind off of things,” she said. “It just like gives me a little break from reality.”
Her reality is that she can’t drive, she can’t entirely fend for herself and she can’t leave the house on her own.
“Whenever I try to do something and I’m unsuccessful at doing it, that’s when it gets… the hard days come back,” she said.
But for a woman who is, literally, asking for a helping hand, she stays hopeful. That was obvious back in the kitchen. Her sister gave her a thermos with her name on one side and a slogan on the other.
“And on this side it has a prosthetic leg and says, ‘I lost my leg but not my courage.’ Because I don’t feel like I have lost my courage,” she said.
A near death infection can’t rob her of that.
If you would like to donate to Atkins’ GoFundMe, click here.