It’s been three years since Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world and for some people, like model Claire Bridges (21), the after-effects of the pandemic are still being felt.
Claire, from Florida in the USA, was born with a common heart defect. She was vaccinated against Covid-19 but the virus still hit hard when she contracted it.
Claire's heart condition and the effects of Covid resulted in the part-time bartender losing both her legs. Yet she's determined to remain positive and focus on the good things in her life.
She was born with aortic valve stenosis, a common heart defect that reduces blood flow to the rest of the body, and in January 2022 she was infected with the coronavirus.
She experienced "extreme fatigue, cold sweats — every single day it would get harder to try to eat or drink anything”, she told CNN.
“Then one day my mom found me unresponsive and rushed me to the hospital. I flatlined three times that night.”
She'd developed rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which damaged muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood, damaging the heart and kidneys. Blood stopped flowing to her legs and the tissue in her legs died.
Claire was on a ventilator and on dialysis as doctors fought to save her legs, but ultimately they had to amputate both limbs below the knees.
When Claire woke up, she remembers looking at her family and doctors and saying, “Well, thank you for saving my life. And oh, can I have bionic legs?”
After a month, her stumps had healed enough for her to be fitted with titanium and carbon fibre legs.
“I was excited when I walked, it felt very natural, but it took a lot of energy and it was really difficult to bend my knee,” she says.
Claire, who was modelling since she was 15, remains positive even in the face of ongoing health issues. She lost more than 30kg during her say in hospital, her hair fell out and she needed open-heart surgery last December but she's grateful for what she has.
“I am very blessed to have such an amazing family and also friends and people in my community that are like family,” she says.
“People I didn’t know, people that I haven’t spoken to since elementary school or high school were reaching out to me.
READ MORE | Cancer robbed this young ballerina of her leg but she hasn't given up on her dream
“Yes, I allowed myself to grieve, and there were dark days. But, honestly, my friends and my family surrounded me with so much love that I never had a second to really think negatively about my legs or how I look now.
“I have my days when I grieve and get angry and upset but most of the time I know I can’t change it.’'
SOURCES: TAMPABAY.COM, CNN.COM, REUTERS.COM