JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Doctors say a First Coast man is one of only a handful of people to ever survive a deadly bacteria.
That infection robbed Steven Walker of his hands and feet.
But he fought for his life.
"It was just an ordinary day, there was no sickness or anything," explained Steven Walker, 29. "I went to sleep and when I woke up I was in the hospital with no legs and no hands."
In a matter of hours, a mysterious illness changed his life forever.
"April 15th he was healthy," Walker's mother, Barbara Gilbert said. "April 16th he was in the hospital and I was telling him goodbye."
At the time, Gilbert had no idea what was happening, but knew something was wrong.
"He was wandering aimlessly through the house and he was falling," she recalled. "When I went to pick him up, I noticed his lips were blue."
Her youngest son, a computer programer and math tutor, collapsed. She called 911.
By the ambulance reached the hospital, Walker's organs had shut down.
They learned it was a bacteria, but doctors had no idea which one.
The next few hours were a blur of antibiotics, prayers, and then goodbyes.
"I told him I loved him and I told him it was okay to go," Gilbert said.
But as Walker's body shut down, his family and doctors witnessed a miracle: his fight to stay alive.
First one hour, then two. Then one day and another.
"It was every 15 minutes he could make it through," Gilbert said.
Ten days later, Walker opened his eyes.
"On April the 26th he came out of his coma for 47 minutes," Gilbert said.
"Seeing my mom, my brother," Walker recalled. "Seeing their faces. I couldn't talk at the time. But I just remember seeing their faces."
It was only a few precious moments before he slipped back into the coma.
But it was enough.
"He recognized everyone," Gilbert said. "So for me that was a message that 'I'm still in here, I'm fighting to come back to you.'"
When doctors finally determined the bacteria was capnocytophaga, they decided Walker's best chance would be to amputate his legs below the knees, where the infection was concentrated.
A week later, doctors also amputated both hands above the wrist.
"Doctors talked to me about pulling the plug," Gilbert said. "About what if he was a vegetable."
Then June 8th, two days after his 29th birthday, he woke up.
And then the real battle began.
Doctors told Walker's family this bacteria is so rare it has only been seen in a few hundred people in the world, with only three known cases in the United States.
Walker is one of the very few survivors.
But his new life with no hands or feet is not easy.
He's relearning simple tasks; things as simple as holding a fork.
Friday, we will take you through the physical and emotional challenges Walker is facing in part two of his incredible story.
First Coast News