‘A long, tough journey:’ Man vows to walk again after rare infection from dog saliva

Greg Manteufel

MILWAUKEE -- A West Bend man who lost his hands, feet and parts of his arms and legs to a rare blood infection transmitted by dog saliva reunited with his doctors on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The medical team praised his positive outlook and determination to walk again with prosthetics.

Greg Manteufel, 48, was discharged two weeks ago from the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Since late June, he has had nearly a dozen surgeries during which surgeons amputated parts of each of his limbs because circulation to his extremities shut down due to the infection.

Manteufel, who worked as a house painter before his illness, started feeling sick on June 26, with a fever and pain and his legs. When he was eventually taken to the hospital, doctors found he had contracted a rare blood infection caused by capnocytophaga bacteria that is commonly found in the saliva of cats and dogs -- and that almost never leads to people getting sick.

Manteufel has a dog, but doctors don't know if it was his pet or another dog that gave him the infection.

Greg Manteufel

"It's been a long, tough journey but it's pretty close to over," said Greg Manteufel Tuesday.

Manteufel was back at Froedtert -- but this time for a reunion.

David Del Toro

"We could hardly believe it. I've never seen anyone have such devastating conditions, but be so positive with his outlook," said Dr. David Del Toro, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Froedtert.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 74 percent of dogs and up to 57 percent of cats carry capnocytophaga. People also have a different strain of the same bacteria in their mouths. The CDC doesn't track the number of infections from capnocytophaga because they're so rare.

"I have never seen a bloodstream infection with this type of bacteria," said Dr. Patrick Hettinger, plastic surgeon at Froedtert.

As a result of the infection, Manteufel lost parts of his arms, legs and nose.

Greg Manteufel

"I just couldn't believe it. I've been around dogs my whole life," said Manteufel.

What doctors discovered out of the operating room, they said, is just as rare.

Greg Manteufel

Patrick Hettinger

"He has approached this with a fight I don't think I've ever seen in any patient," said Dr. Hettinger.

Manteufel is now in physical therapy to gain strength for prosthetics. The loss of circulation that cost him parts of his limbs also almost took his nose and upper lip. This will require reconstructive surgery in stages over the next year, Hettinger said. Meantime, his prosthetics will be fitted in stages as his skin and wounds begin to heal.

Doctors said his will is making all the difference.

"Ultimately, he will have a very good outcome from this, no matter how devastating the injury is," said Dr. Hettinger.

Manteufel said his main goal is to walk and drive again "so I can get back on with life, not just be stuck somewhere," but he and his wife, Dawn are taking the 'prescription for patience' faithfully.

Greg Manteufel

Greg Manteufel

"We kind of look at it as, we didn't fight this hard to lay down and give up," said Dawn Manteufel.

"I went a long way to get here, obviously. Just take it one day at a time," said Greg Manteufel.

Doctors said if all goes well, Greg Manteufel could be fitted for prosthetics in the next year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Oct. 6 Manteufel's friends and family are hosting a benefit motorcycle ride in Slinger. For details on the event, and how to get involved, CLICK HERE.

Greg and Dawn Manteufel