A adolescent who had missed his meningococcal vaccine booster shots contracted the disease and was only able to survive a near-fatal bout of food poisoning after physicians amputated his gangrenous legs and fingers because sepsis had struck in quickly.
The details of the case’s findings were first published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March 2021, but they went viral after a popular Youtuber doctor named Bernard Hsu, who runs the Chubbyemu channel, posted an explainer video on the website.
Not all leftovers are bad, and this was indeed just a freak accident that happened in a perfect storm sequence of events, explains Dr Bernard Hsu who says he too eats recycled (reheated) leftovers regularly.
What caused the serious food poisoning and sepsis?
The 19-year-old student ate some leftover chicken and rice noodles that his friend had left in his fridge, which triggered a potentially deadly disease. According to this study, a patient was admitted to the paediatric intensive care centre (PICU) “because of shock, multiple organ failure, and rash”. His pain first started 20 hours before he was admitted and shortly after he “ate rice, chicken, and lo mein leftovers from a restaurant”.
As noted in Hsu’s video, this patient, who is referred to as JC, was finally treated at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US.
But when he ate the noodles and suffered a severe vomitting spell, he had initially been taken to a local hospital by his friend the next morning. The patient had a fever, high blood pressure, and pale skin. After JC vomited, doctors noticed a “greenish-yellow colour, not looking like any particular kind of food”.
Soon his blood pressure dropped, his breathing became laboured, and the oxygen level dropped. His body developed a mottled rash that appeared like some bruises, but then they became a deep reddish-brown, red defined at the edges. It was then as he got sicker that the youth was transported via helicopter to the bigger better-equipped hospital. He was put on oxygen support. Luckily, his brain did not seem to have been affected.
Following more blood and urine tests, JC was diagnosed with Neisseria meningitides, which caused his stiff neck, nausea, respiratory collapse, shock, and multiorgan failure.
Diagnosis? Meningococcal disease with purpura fulminans:
According to the Australian government’s Health website, “Meningococcal disease is contagious. It is transmitted through close and prolonged contact with mucus from an infected person. Symptoms include a rash and fever. Meningococcal can affect people of all ages but can be prevented with vaccination. Meningococcal disease is treated with antibiotics.” According to Dr Bernard Hsu, the patient had been given a Meningococcal vaccine in his middle school years but had missed the two booster shots he was to take at age 16 and when he entered university.
According to Science Direct, “Purpura fulminans (PF) is a unique and devastating thrombotic disorder, often acute and fatal, that manifests as large irregular areas of blue-black cutaneous bleeding that rapidly progress to necrosis of superficial skin and deeper soft tissues.”
Luckily, the patient made full recovery from the infection after a few weeks though the amputation left him with other health issues to deal with for the rest of his life.