Published: Jul 10, 2014 6:05 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 10, 2014 6:07 PM EDT

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla - Late in the day this past March, Karen Sipe and her boyfriend went for a walk onthe beach to see the sunset.

"I picked up shells as I do all the time," Sipe said

On this particular day, however, she had a cut on her hand, and what she didn't know is that, somehow, she picked up more than some sea shells. At the beach, or possibly even somewhere else, she picked up a bacterial infection.

"By the time we got back, my hand was turning bright purple," Sipe said. "It felt like it was on fire. The next day, Thursday, by 11:30 in the morning, I couldn't lift my head."

At the hospital and on life support, Sipe's boyfriend, Bill Armstrong, and her father had to make the decision: lose Karen or have doctors amputate her arm. Alive and recovering, she still wonders how a simple little cut could lead to a tragic result.

Diane Holm, the Public Information Officer for Florida Department of Health in Lee County, says what Sipe contracted wasn't a rare bacteria, but likely a common bacteria that got into her blood stream and did damage.

"The earth and the water naturally have bacteria in them all the time," Holm said, "and so what we recommend as a public health precaution is whenever you have a cut, make sure you cleanse it thoroughly."

Snipe says she enjoyed cooking, knitting, crocheting and writing books, but struggles to do those hobbies now.

"I can get over the challenge of it," she said. "I use my knees and my teeth a lot... and my chin," she continued, "It's the pain that I feel. Every day there's a ton of pain."

Sipe is making progress, and, once she finishes rehab, hopes she will be able to get a prosthetic arm. 


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