Amnesia sufferer woke up from a coma with a baby daughter and an amputated leg

An amnesia sufferer woke up from a coma with a baby daughter and an amputated leg after a seizure caused brain damage and she contracted a flesh-eating infection.

Aaliyah Shackelford, 21, suffered a life-changing seizure in February 2018 caused by auto-immune disease lupus, leaving her in a coma in hospital. That seizure also caused brain damage and memory loss, meaning Aaliyah had forgotten the birth of her 11-month-old baby, Novella, when she woke up.

But there was further heartache in store for the young mother, who went on to contract flesh-eating infection streptococcus while recovering at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. The bacterial bug destroyed her right leg leaving doctors with no choice but to amputate the limb entirely from the hip down.

Aaliyah, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, now uses an electronic prosthetic leg to walk but says she is still rebuilding her shattered life.

She said: ‘We had just got back from a family holiday to Costa Rica when I had a really bad seizure at home and I knocked my head. It damaged a part of my brain and it had a massive effect on my memory. I don’t remember the seizure or what happened, it’s all very fuzzy.

‘I was in a coma for about a month and a half and when I woke up I couldn’t remember my daughter’s birth. I was really confused about what had happened. When I first saw her I knew she was my daughter but I couldn’t remember giving birth, and that really hurts.

‘I can’t remember large parts of my life. I can only remember bits and pieces of school.

‘When I was in a coma I caught a really bad infection that basically ate away at my leg. They had to amputate it and obviously it was a massive shock when I woke up.

‘The doctors explained what happened and I was absolutely devastated. It was life-changing for me. My whole world was flipped on its head.

‘Novella was 11 months old at the time and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to look after her properly. I want to be the best possible mom for her but I was terrified I wouldn’t be good enough.’

Stay-at-home mom Aaliyah fell pregnant with Novella aged 18 in the summer of 2016, just a few months before being told she had lupus, which causes inflammation to the joints, skin and other organs.

She had developed skin rashes, hair loss and small spots on her finger tips and blood tests carried out at a routine pregnancy check-up diagnosed the condition.

Aaliyah has said she was given medication to help keep her lupus at bay but admits she didn’t take a single tablet and ignored the advice of medics.

Her daughter, Novella, was born in April 2017 and Aaliyah was getting used to life as a new mom supported by her boyfriend at the time, Charles Smith, at the couple’s home in Loma Linda, California.

But six months later, Aaliyah’s Lupus got more severe and she started experiencing seizures. The episodes caused her to black out, fall to the floor if stood up and make involuntary movements.

Aaliyah said: ‘The seizures started in the October. They made me shake uncontrollably and when I had them I couldn’t remember anything.

‘They often happened in the middle of the night and were quite scary.

‘They got worse at the start of 2018 not long before we went to Costa Rica.’

The worst seizure of them all happened in late February 2018 and landed Aaliyah in hospital and in a medically-induced coma for six weeks.

Whilst in intensive care Aaliyah said she caught a severe type of bacterial infection, streptococcus. Commonly known as strep throat, the disease usually affects the throat and tonsils and causes skin rashes and a sore throat.

However, the bacterial bug creates toxins that if the immune system can not fight off can destroy tissues such as muscles, skin, and fat.

Aaliyah said it was this severe and rare case of strep that ended up costing her freedom and her life as she knew it.

She said: ‘I woke up in mid-March with no right leg and I was just so upset. My main worry was how it would impact my daughter.

‘Waking up from that was the scariest experience of my life.

‘I got to go home in April in time for Novella’s first birthday. I was very weak and it took me so long to build up and kind of strength again. Trying to adapt to living like this was so hard.

‘I was living with Charles and his parents and I used a wheelchair to begin with, which was pretty frustrating.

‘I went from being able to walk and do and go wherever I wanted to basically nothing. I had my life as I knew it taken away from me.

‘I am still finding that really hard to come to terms with.

‘Novella is still young and my family have been amazing to help look after it. I couldn’t have done it without them and this has made me realise not to take family for granted.

‘It happened to me when I was still young and I was very independent. I also have another life depending on me and I can’t take her to do normal things, like go to the park or on trips out.

‘It’s the little things that I wish I could do. It’s degrading to have everything taken away from you.’

After several months of being restricted to a wheelchair Aaliyah found out she was eligible through her health insurance policy to be provided with a prosthetic leg.

Aliyah said she started using the leg – which includes an electronically assisted knee joint – in April last year is still getting used to walking with it.

She said: ‘It has given me a whole new lease of life but I do find it very uncomfortable to wear. It puts a lot of pressure on my hip and I am still relying on my wheelchair quite a lot.

‘Novella doesn’t see me any differently yet but there will come a day where she starts asking questions. I feel sad that I won’t be able to run around with her and play when she is older.

‘I can’t be there mum I want to be but I am trying my best.

‘She is the reason I have not given up yet.’

Aaliyah has since split up with long-term boyfriend Charles and for the last 18 months has been living with her father, Cameron, 47, in Fort Wayne.

However after battling for months to adapt to her new way of life Aaliyah said she is due to move into her own apartment with Novella later this month.

She said: It’s going to be a long journey but I’m determined to get my life back.

‘I’m staying strong and I am hopeful. I want to do it for Novella.’

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