Stunned Couple Gets the Bubonic Plague

Husband slips into coma for nearly 90 days

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 22, 2013 5:12 PM CDT | Updated Mar 24, 2013 11:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – Cases of bubonic plague aren't exactly common these days. But when Lucinda Marker and her husband John Tull fell ill on a trip to Manhattan—and realized it might not be the flu—they were smart to go see a doctor. It turned out that plague-infected fleas had bitten them back home in New Mexico. "Of course, it was a good thing we got to the hospital because it was the first case of plague in New York City in over 100 years," says Marker. Not that things went easily from there, NPR reports.

Stricken with the infection that killed a third of Europe in the Middle Ages, Tull slipped into a coma for nearly 90 days. And he developed gangrene, forcing Marker to make the grueling decision to have both his legs amputated—but it saved his life. Tull says he survived for three reasons: He's "a tough son of a bitch," "God just didn't want me," and his eldest son's wife was pregnant with his first grandchild. "And by God, I was going to stay alive to see that little grandbaby."

A mass grave of bubonic plague victims in Martigues, France.
A mass grave of bubonic plague victims in Martigues, France.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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