A Port Macquarie man will have his hands and feet amputated this week after suffering catastrophic complications from a streptococcus infection.
Aaron Dalley, 42, is expected to undergo surgery at Royal North Shore (RNS) Hospital in the next few days, seven weeks after first displaying mild flu-like symptoms.
Mr Dalley was transferred from Wyong Hospital to Gosford Hospital, and ultimately to RNS as his condition deteriorated.
During that near-fatal decline, Mr Dalley’s heart, kidneys, lungs and liver suffered various degrees of failure.
At one point, doctors advised Mr Dalley’s family to say their goodbyes to him.
Mr Dalley’s sister, Nicole Weekes, said her brother’s initial symptoms belied the seriousness of his illness.
“I’d seen Aaron a couple of days before he went to hospital and he just looked like he had a touch of the flu,” Ms Weekes said.
It was only when their father, Terry, a registered nurse, observed his son’s grey pallor that the decision was made to call an ambulance.
Mr Dalley was treated at Wyong Hospital overnight, but his condition worsened and he was transferred to Gosford the next day.
“Doctors at Gosford sat Mum, Dad and I down and said they really didn’t expect Aaron to live,” Ms Weekes said.
She said the news rocked the family.
“They didn’t know at that point what was wrong with him. They just listed all of the things that had shut down with him.”
Mr Dalley was placed in an induced coma for 12 days.
“It was touch and go the whole time. He went into heart failure three times.”
Doctors said Mr Dalley had contracted pneumonia, sepsis (a blood infection), and a bacterial infection in his heart valve, Ms Weekes said.
“They said it was a super bug.”
Mr Dalley spent four weeks in ICU at Gosford, and received dialysis every second day.
Doctors said he had also suffered toxic shock.
His hands and feet swelled and blackened.
“Aaron’s going to lose his feet, his left hand at the wrist, and three-quarters of his right hand,” Ms Weekes said.
“They’re going to try to rebuild his right hand to at least give him a pincher so that he can go to the toilet and feed himself.”
Mr Dalley was now preparing for life with prosthetics and a wheelchair.
Ms Weekes said the family was still unsure about what the future would look like for her brother.
“We’ll just be trying to get him back leading a new normal life,” she said.
“Doctors hope that Aaron’s kidneys will regenerate and recover. But they say it’ll take at least 18 months for his body to completely repair itself internally.”
Ms Weekes said her parents, Terry and Rosemary, had been devastated by the ordeal. But they have taken heart from Aaron’s stoic response, and even his jokes about the predicament.
“He can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and he wants to come home. He’s determined.”
She said a GoFundMe page had been set up to help with the costs of her brother’s recovery and possible modifications to his home.
“There’s a huge support network for Aaron in the community,” she said, and the family has been buoyed by the generous outpouring.
Mr Dalley is well known in the Southlakes district.
He works as a labourer at Rutherford, but was a longtime groundsman at Morisset Hospital. He is a life member of Dora Creek Workers Cricket Club, and was a tennis coach at Morisset and Bonnells Bay.
Ms Weekes urged locals not to be complacent about their health, or dismissive of seemingly minor ailments.
”I hope people take it seriously,” she said.
“If you’re not well, don’t leave it – particularly with streps. It can be fixed if dealt with early.”