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Despite all the odds
Leonor Harris was an Arts teacher at a school in Puerto Williams, a small town located in the southern tip of Chile. Her life was pretty normal until, one day, she began to feel very sick. She vomited all night long and felt so cold and tired that the very next day she had to be transported by plane to the nearest city. As soon as Leonor arrived, she fell into a deep coma from which she would not wake for three months.
During that time, doctors were at a loss to explain what was causing the symptoms. At first they thought it might be meningitis, but further tests revealed that Leonor's body was missing a vital organ: the spleen. Suddenly, it all became clear!
You can learn more about Leonor's story in the video below (in Spanish):
Leonor had caught an infection from a common bacteria called pneumococcus. In her case, however, because she was missing her spleen, her immune system was compromised and the bacteria was able to seriously attack her body. The infection quickly spread and led to necrosis in her limbs.
Leonor's body was rotting away and she did not wake from the coma. To save her life, the doctors had to make a devastating decision: amputate her fingers, her legs and her nose.
When Leonor finally came out of the coma, she felt alive but different. "I suspected they had amputated something, I felt it. But I did not realize it had been my legs, I had no idea, I didn't feel anything. I only found out one morning when a doctor came to examine me and pulled back the covers to see how the scars on the stumps were healing, then I knew I had no legs. And that was the worst thing of all," she remembers sadly.
After the terrible shock, Leonor had to learn how to live with her new body. But first, she wanted some answers: why didn't she have a spleen? Searching through her medical files, Leonor found out it had been removed years ago when she underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from her pancreas. In all these years nobody had ever told her!
Leonor is now working hard to adapt to her limitations, but it is not easy. She can no longer teach, but is still able to make toys and handcrafted objects that she sells online. Some things she cannot do without prosthetics, like walking or using scissors. Leonor is currently suing the hospital where her spleen was removed without her knowledge to help pay her medical bills. She also has her own GoFundMe page, where people can make donations.
Leonor hopes one day to go back to work as a teacher and, in spite of everything she has lost, remains optimistic. She is going to rehab and is fighting to move on. "When you go through something like this and survive it's because there is still something for you to do. Little by little, I am discovering what I still have to accomplish and why I am still here," she says.
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