JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A rare bacteria robbed a 29-year-old First Coast man of his hands and feet.
"Not a doctor there, not a nurse there expected this kid to live," said Barbara Gilbert, Steven Walker's mother.
But Walker is alive, with a full life within his reach.
"It's a lot different having legs and hands," he said as he sipped a drink through a straw.
Walker is now learning how to do everything over again.
With no feet and no hands, nothing is easy.
"Taking a soda out of the fridge and pouring a drink could be simple for some people," Walker said. "But for me it's a long task."
Doctors amputated Walker's legs below the knees and hands above the wrist to save him from a bacteria that ate away at his body, leaving him covered in sores and gangrene.
Doctors finally determined it was the extremely rare bacteria capnocytophaga.
After eight weeks of fighting for his life in a coma, Walker woke up.
Walker told First Coast News Erin Hawley the hardest moment was when he woke up, thinking somebody was going to have to take care of him for the rest of his life.
But he isn't letting anything hold him down.
When the came, Walker wheeled himself out of the Baptist Beaches hospital and after just two weeks of therapy at Brooks Rehabilitation, he already had all the basics down.
"People always say well it couldn't happen to me," Gilbert said. "And it happened to him."
Gilbert has barely left Walker's side, calling him a miracle.
"Only about three known cases in the United States," Gilbert said. "And only about two or three survivors and he's one of those."
Gilbert wishes they'd taken care of Walker's abscessed tooth; that's how doctors believe the bacteria entered Walker's bloodstream.
"That's how the working poor live that are uninsured," Gilbert said. "You live with hey if this is not life threatening, you go with the pain."
Walker isn't feeling sorry for himself.
"You start to gain skills and abilities and they give you hope," he explained.
The gangrene and sores are healing and in four months, he'll have surgery to fix his cleft lip.
With a background in 3D programming, he's already researching robotic technology that could be used with prosthetics and looking for ways to help others.
Although his body is new, Walker and his family know the man inside is still him.
"Steven is not his arms and his legs and what he looks like," Gilbert explained. "Steven is his brain and his heart."
First Coast News