MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A near death experience due to an unknown bacterium left marine scientist Kemit-Amon Lewis a changed man after losing both feet and both hands, but he has coped with the challenges and now teaches others about determination with an attitude that is truly inspiring.
Kemit was always busy and active.
"Most recently I was Coral Conservation Manager with the Nature Conservancy Caribbean program. We help to develop coral reef restoration programs across the Caribbean."
At 37, living and working in Saint Croix, reef missions had Kemit diving all over the world. Every aspect of his life was very physical.
"I was on the water a lot and I was on the tennis court a lot. I played tennis in college and continued to play after that. I also taught dance part time," he explained.
In July 2019, a rare medical emergency would nearly cost him his life.
"I felt ill. I felt a little sluggish, I was running a fever. So, I told my friend I was going to run myself to the acute medical care."
His condition quickly worsened. He went from urgent care to the E.R. and then, given the grave nature of his condition, he was flown to Broward Health through their international program. He arrived in septic shock due to infection.
Dr. Maxine Hamilton, heads the program at Broward Health.
"By the time we got him he already had multi-system organ failure and was extremely ill. He was taken to the intensive care unit." She explained all his systems were failing from his cardiac, renal, kidney, liver, to his lungs. He was very critical.
"It was a long, long stay in a difficult battle, but we were able to fight for him and save his life and organs."
Sadly, the damage to his limbs would be devastating. The medicine that saved his organs and his life had stripped oxygen to his limbs.
"I lost my right leg, right hand, left fingers, and left toes," Kemit explained.
"One of the first things that they did was reassure me was that I would be diving again, I would be on the tennis court, and dance."
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First, he would re-learn getting dressed, getting in and out of the wheelchair, and then learning to walk.
"Eventually when I was able to get the prosthetic limbs and take those first steps, after sitting for a few months, being in bed, it was a very powerful thing," Kemit recalled.
He credits his medical team, supportive friends, family, and his determined spirit, stating he has always been highly motivated.
"I'm able to live on my own now, cook for myself, clean myself, dress myself, and all that stuff that you don't think of. It's been making lemonade out of the lemons that were tossed at me last year."
Kemit lives in Coral Springs and is a motivational speaker now.
He expects to eventually have a prosthetic leg that will allow him to run, dance, swim, and dive again.
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