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Health Workers Who Saved Texas Amputees' Life Cheer Her Recovery

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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - March 6, 2014 was a day that changed Kathryn Kuehn's life forever. That was the day her husband rushed her to the emergency room at Baylor Plano.

Doctors said Kuehn was incredibly sick. A 'Group A' streptococcal infection had spread through her body – it may have been caused by something as simple as a scratch – and Kuehn was experiencing organ failure and septic shock.

"When you're septic – which is the overwhelming, systemic infection – your blood pressure drops dramatically," explained Dr. Scott Biedermann, Kuehn's nephrologist at Baylor Plano.

Kuehn was not getting good blood flow to parts of her arms and legs. Amputation was the prognosis.

"It's hard on the families to make those decisions. And the doctors... are we doing the right things to this younger lady, taking all these parts off? Is she going to be okay when she wakes up, that we've done all this?" Dr. Biedermann asked. "So, it's hard on everybody."

At the time of her illness Kuehn, a mother of two young boys, was only 40-years-old.

"It wasn't a choice. I did not have a choice about it," she said. "I just kind of deal with what I have, and do the best I can for me and my family."

The Richardson mom spent three months in the hospital ICU. She then moved to Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. For two and a half months, she worked five days a week, for three hours a day on physical and occupational therapy. That included learning to first use her new prosthetic feet, and later, her prosthetic hands.

Kuehn says her family and her caregivers kept her motivated, while the caregivers say they are constantly inspired by Kuehn's strength.

"We said it when she was in the hospital, and we still say it – she is absolutely the strongest woman that we have ever known," said ICU nurse Michelle Constance.

Even in rehabilitation, her nurses and doctors from the Baylor Plano ICU would frequently visit.

"I couldn't have made it without all of them. Everybody's been so supportive, and I've come a long way in a year," said Kuehn.

On March 6, 2015, one year to the day that Kuehn was admitted to the hospital, she returned.

ICU nurse Terrie Dagenhart had been one of the people encouraging Kuehn. "I remember telling her, I can't wait for the day you come back and walk in here and see us."

The staff gathered to welcome Kuehn, and clapped as the ICU doors flew open. In walked Kuehn, just as she promised. "It felt really good," she said.

"The course that her disease took and what she had to go through each day to get over that was just mind-blowing for us. It shows an incredible amount of courage and strength from her," said the nurses.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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