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  Life   Health  02 Jul 2018  Man without limbs, lips gets shoulder skin grafted, new lips tattooed on face

Man without limbs, lips gets shoulder skin grafted, new lips tattooed on face

THE ASIAN AGE
Published : Jul 2, 2018, 2:06 pm IST
Updated : Jul 2, 2018, 2:06 pm IST

Alex Lewis, had skin from his shoulder grafted around his mouth after he lost part of his face to a vicious flesh-eating infection.

Ordeal, for Lewis, began in November 2013, when what he thought was a routine cold turned into a series of infections which left him with a three per cent chance of survival. (Photo: AFP)
 Ordeal, for Lewis, began in November 2013, when what he thought was a routine cold turned into a series of infections which left him with a three per cent chance of survival. (Photo: AFP)

A man who lost all four limbs and his lips to a deadly infection received a world-first operation and medical tattooing to repair his face and transform his life.

The 38-year-old Alex Lewis, had skin from his shoulder grafted around his mouth after he lost part of his face to a vicious flesh-eating infection. He had lips tattooed onto his skin as well.

Ordeal, for Lewis, began in November 2013, when what he thought was a routine cold turned into a series of infections which left him with a three per cent chance of survival.

After six-and-a-half months in hospital, 18 operations and the amputation of both legs and arms and his lips, Lewis, of Over Wallop in Hampshire, began the slow road to recovery.

Lewis's surgeon compared his injuries to those of someone in a bomb explosion and said he is an 'extreme survivor from any point of view'.

Lewis had been suffering from what he thought was a cold or 'man flu' for around two weeks.

Speaking to MailOnline, Lewis said, “One day I got up in the middle of the night and there was blood in my urine. Then when I woke up the next day I couldn't really move and my skin had started to turn purple.”

He was rushed to hospital in Winchester where medics discovered an infection was attacking his organs.

Lewis was diagnosed with Strep A – Group A Streptococcal Infection – which was progressing to toxic shock syndrome, septicaemia and necrotising fasciitis.

His condition was life-threatening and deteriorated within hours, so he was put in intensive care.

Soon afterwards, gangrene started to spread across his body.

As the infections ravaged Lewis' body, flesh-eating necrotising fasciitis caused irreparable damage to his limbs and face.

The infection causes cells and tissue to die – a condition called gangrene – and spreads to healthier tissue, killing that as well. 

Doctors had no choice but to start amputations to prevent the infection reaching Lewis' vital organs, and he had all four limbs and his lips amputated.

Lewis adds that the infection got so severe that it got to the end of his nose and his lips turned gangrenous, so surgeons cut all the dead skin away and placed a temporary flap of skin on his mouth for nine months.

After Mr Lewis had recovered from his illness, doctors set about rebuilding his mouth.

Lips were recreated using shoulder skin

Using skin from Mr Lewis’s shoulder, Salisbury-based plastic surgeon Alexandra Crick was able to create his new lips in a 'brutal' surgery.

Lewis’s new lips were made of naturally fattier skin than the rest of his face and were a different colour, making them stand out a lot to begin with.

But regular surgery – six operations in total – to thin the transplanted skin has reduced their size and blended them into his cheeks and chin more successfully.

And to top it, tattooing created realistic-looking lips and freckles

This was done by Karen Betts, who has also worked with Katie Piper, a former model who was scarred for life after having acid thrown in her face.

Betts worked for free to tattoo the skin around Mr Lewis’s mouth, adding realistic red lips, freckles and stubble marks to make the area look more like the rest of his face.

Tags: infection, gangrene, man loses limbs and lips, medical tattooing, shoulder skin graft, flesh-eating infection, health and well being, alex lewis, strep a, group a streptococcal infection, toxic shock syndrome, septicaemia, necrotising fasciitis