Imagine discovering that the same superbug – with no known cause and no known cure – was at that very moment attacking your flesh, and that your chances of survival were slim to none.
That’s the situation football player Sam O’Sullivan found himself in. And on tonight’s 60 Minutes, Sam’s extraordinary story of survival was revealed.
Sam went to bed healthy one night, and woke up the next morning with crippling pains in his shins – a sensation doctors later realised was the superbug beginning to tear at the muscles of his legs.
At first, doctors at Melbourne’s Box Hill Hospital couldn’t diagnose what was causing Sam’s pain. Dr. Lin-Li Lim, a specialist in infectious diseases, says he knew something was seriously wrong when Sam failed to respond to anitbiotics after 24 hours of treatment.
With Sam’s leg swelling and a concerning rash spreading across his body, his doctors had no choice but to perform explorative surgery. What they found was necrotising myositis, a rare and deadly diseased that had already laid most of the muscles in Sam’s right leg to waste.
Sam was placed into an induced coma, and underwent six further operations over the course of ten days. As the bug spread, surgeons were forced to hack away more and more of the dead tissue in his leg. The chances that Sam would live were slim - and doctors were careful to inform Sam's parents that, if he did survive, it would likely be at the expense of his leg.
"I just kept thinking, 'OK, let’s just forget about everything else, don’t worry about the amputations. Don’t worry about the not playing footy.' The main focus at that point was to just for him to survive, for him to live, and that is what we had to focus on," Sam's mother Mary told 60 Minutes.