Ohio woman learns to walk again after infection caused by dog saliva took limbs

CANTON, Ohio -- With an Ohio woman learning to walk again after losing limbs to an infection tied to dog saliva, her husband said he's continually amazed by her strength.

Marie and Matt Trainer met in 1987 when the hairstylist cut his hair for the first time. Together, they raised a family and were happily married for 32 years when tragedy struck in summer 2019.

“Of course, at first, I said, 'Why did you let me live?' You know, how can I go to live like this?" Marie said.

The couple had just returned from vacation when Marie fell suddenly ill. She awoke from a coma 10 days later with both arms and legs partially amputated. They thought Marie had the flu, but both Aultman Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed the surprising diagnosis of capnocytophaga.

Dr. Margaret Kobe, medical director of infectious disease at Aultman, said capnocytophaga is a bacteria commonly found in the saliva of dogs, and a smaller percentage of cats, that for some unknown reason can suddenly cause severe blood clots, cutting off circulation to the limbs, and causing them to turn necrotic.

“Fairly common in the oral flora or the mouth of a dog, and it can be transmitted through a bite or sometimes just contact with saliva,” Kobe said. “That organism is very virulent. It has the ability to induce your immune system to do some pretty horrible things.”

If Marie’s limbs were not amputated, she could’ve died within days, if not hours.

“It was just rapidly progressing, where her hands and feet were turning black,” said Dr. Ajay Seth, orthopedic surgeon at Spectrum Orthopedics.

Marie was rushed into surgery. Both of her legs had to be amputated above the knees, but Seth worked hard to save most of her arms.

“Because if she didn’t, if she had both arms, you know, amputated above the elbow, you can’t walk because there’s no stability,” Seth said. “By the seventh hour, I had probably taken out over 40 to 50 clots.”

The only thing harder was telling Marie when she woke up in the hospital.

“It was rough," Matt said. "I mean, I don’t know how much to really say. I just cried and told her."

The couple faced an uncertain future. They weren’t sure if she would ever walk again, and after 10 surgeries, faced astronomical medical bills, but they said they found a surprising source of inspiration on the day she was released from the hospital.

They finally got the love song they never had: "Beautiful Crazy" by Luke Combs.

“Everywhere we went, every time we got in the car, the song come on. It’s just like it means something,” Marie said.

A portion of lyrics read, “Beautiful, crazy she can’t help but amaze me ...”

Matt said his wife literally amazes him every day.

Marie defied the odds -- walking on prosthetic legs eight months later.

“When I seen her walk it’s like, 'Oh my God, this is amazing,'" Matt said.

Additionally, Seth succeeded in saving most of Marie’s critical nerve endings so soon she will be able to get prosthetic hands.

“I was able to save every nerve, every muscle so she can literally put on prosthetics and she’ll be able to move her fingers just like she normally did,” Seth said.

Although it’s been a difficult road and their lives will never be the same, Marie and Matt said their love and marriage is stronger than ever.

“Love changes over the years, but it takes two,” Marie said.

“Just find someone who is willing to laugh with you and not at you,” Matt said.

A GoFundMe account set up to help the Trainers with medical bills surpassed $1 million as of Tuesday, Feb. 11.