Oregon Man Hit With Plague Could Lose Fingers

Paul Gaylord contracted rare disease from cat bite
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 18, 2012 8:31 AM CDT
Oregon Man Hit With Plague Could Lose Fingers
This photo supplied by the Gaylord family taken July 11, 2012, at a hospital in Bend, Ore., shows the blackened hand of Paul Gaylord as he recovers from the plague.   (Anonymous)

One look at Paul Gaylord's hands shows why the plague is referred to as "Black Death." The 59-year-old contracted the plague after trying to take a mouse from the jaws of a choking cat, which then bit him. Now the Oregon welder's once-strong hands have been withered by the cell-killing infection and darkened to the color of charcoal. Doctors are waiting to see if they can save a portion of his fingers, but the outlook is grim for the man who needs them for his livelihood.

"I don't think I can do my job," Gaylord says from a Bend, Ore., hospital. "I'm going to lose all my fingers on both hands. I don't know about my thumbs. The toes—I might lose all them, too." He faces a difficult recovery now that he's out of intensive care, following a month spent on life support. His family is trying to raise money to get him into a new house, because the manufactured home he was living in has a leaky roof, a moldy bathroom, and mice—dangerous living conditions for a man with a weakened immune system. "We didn't even know the plague was around anymore," says sister Diana Gaylord. "We thought that was an ancient, ancient disease." (More Oregon stories.)

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