HOUSTON - A Houston man is speaking out about his traumatic experience after losing his hands and feet to a single flea bite.
Michael Kohlhof, 35, is recovering from the ordeal, which began in June when he was visiting his mother in San Antonio. He was taken to the emergency room with a suspected case of COVID-19, but doctors soon realized he was suffering from a severe bacterial infection called typhus.
Typhus is spread by fleas that have bitten infected animals, such as rats or squirrels. It can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, headache, and rash. In severe cases, typhus can lead to organ failure and death.
Kohlhof's case was so severe that he fell into a coma. Doctors were able to save his life, but they had to amputate his hands and feet to prevent the infection from spreading further.
Despite the physical challenges he faces, Kohlhof is determined to rebuild his life. He is sharing his story on TikTok and his website to raise awareness about the condition and to inspire others who are facing adversity.
Michael Kohlohf is now recovering from a severe case of typhus, a bacterial infection transmitted through a flea bite. (Michael Kohlhof photo)
"I would just say, look to the things that make you happy," Kohlhof said. "Pursue those things. And if stuff is in your way, then I would tell you to try your best to negate having those things as a frequency in your life."
Kohlhof's family and girlfriend have been a constant source of support throughout his ordeal. The Houston Burning Man organization has also supported him as much as they can through local events. His girlfriend, Alishpa Masood, says that his strength and resilience have been an inspiration to her.
"Now that I'm most grateful for him just being here, like mentally and cognizant and we can share all our struggles with each other. We're going through a lot of this together."
Kohlhof recalls a remarkable moment while he was in the hospital. The same music he heard while he was in a state of delirium was the music Masood was playing in his hospital room.
"it was the set list that I like a lot from a band called Gong Gone Beyond," says Kohlhof. She played that setlist while I was while I was in a coma. And I heard that setlist and I remembered her saying to them (hospital staff), "Oh, I know he likes this. It relaxes him."
"Even though it's not only necessarily about memory, but it's just like what feels and brings comfort in that moment," says Masood.
Up until the end of September, Kohlhof was receiving rehab care at The Heights of Bulverde in Spring Branch.
"Touchstone Communities was honored to provide rehabilitation physical and occupational therapy to this exceptional young man," says Administrator Jeff Chamberlain. "He made a lasting impression on the team at The Heights of Bulverde and we believe he is a beacon of hope for others who hear his incredible story and find inspiration."
Kohlhof is raising money to cover the costs of his medical care and prosthetics. You can learn more about his story here.
To prevent typhus, avoid contact with fleas and wild animals. You can also protect yourself by using appropriate insect repellent and by wearing long pants and long sleeves when you are outdoors.