A Tennessee woman who did not see a doctor after coming down with strep throat is learning to live without some of her fingers and toes after the conditioned worsened and nearly killed her.
Shelby Smith, 27, was a health-conscious young woman who stayed in great shape. So what happened in the days after catching strep throat in December was nothing short of astonishing.
"I haven't been sick in forever — it's been years," she told Inside Edition.
Despite a fever that reached 103 degrees and a bad case of the chills, she figured she would ride out the illness because she couldn’t afford health insurance.
And then her symptoms got worse.
“My nose was turning blue purple,” she recalled.
On January 2, her boyfriend, Caleb, called 911 and Smith was rushed to the emergency room.
"I thought I was losing her," Caleb told Inside Edition. "That was the most terrified I’ve been in my life,”
In the hospital, it was found that her heart, lungs, and brain were failing.
"I would say that I was as close to death as you can be without dying," Smith said.
The untreated strep throat had developed into a sepsis infection, and her fingers, feet, and toes were turning black.
"It looked like I was turning into a witch," Smith said. "Honestly, a creepy witch you'd see on Hansel and Gretel or something. [My fingers] were completely black."
To save her life, on January 9, doctors were forced to amputate fingers on her right hand and a finger on her left hand. Two toes were also amputated on her left foot.
Her stepmom, Cary, couldn't believe it all started with strep throat.
“It was just very scary. We could have lost her for something so small,” she said.
Nearly three months after the surgery, Smith is learning to do things most of us take for granted, like writing with her left hand.
At Knoxville's Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, her occupational therapist, Lisa McBride, gives her an ultrasound massage to reduce swelling and improve mobility, which allows her to identify and pick up small objects with her eyes closed.
Shelby says that despite her ordeal, she feels lucky to be alive.
“Every day I see this is a reminder I have a second chance at life because I could be dead,” she said.