When former policeman Melvin T. Blakely Jr. lost one leg, one foot, some finger tips, and a hand to a bad blood infection, the prospect of ever enjoying a happy family life seemed remote.
Mistakes in not diagnosing the infection early enough led to his body shutting down and left him in a dark hole he feared he might never escape from. But courage and love, helped by the wonders of modern technology and medicine, enabled him to make a remarkable recovery.
A year after being given a 10% chance of survival, Mr. Blakely Jr. defied excruciating pain to walk down the aisle on his prosthetic leg and barely a right foot to marry the woman who stood with him throughout his journey. Commenting on the fact of becoming a married couple, Mr. Blakely Jr., 45, of Gary, Indiana and Dorlita Jones, 38, of Gary, Indiana, said “It’s amazing. It really is a miracle after all that has happened to Melvin.” Despite losing five fingers, he hopes to become a ‘hands-on’ father to his previous children and new children. He said, “It would be wonderful to be nine years old again.”
Mr. Blakely’s ordeal began in November 2015 when he fell ill while living in South Bend, Indiana, and working as a police officer for Indiana University South Bend. He was just weeks out of a marriage and his life was suddenly turned upside down. He was rushed to South Bend Memorial Hospital Emergency Room with severe chest pain, fever and shakes, which quickly worsened. His body began shutting down and he was admitted to intensive care.
His family said there was a vital 20-hour delay in diagnosing the infection. The tell-tale symptoms were there, but by the time blood poisoning was identified it was too late to stop the devastating effects. It was not a classic case. His immune system overreacted to an infection and began attacking its own organs and tissues.
Yet somehow Mr. Blakely pulled through and he was released from hospital after two and one-half months. Over the next year he underwent five operations which saw both legs amputated below the knee, as well as amputations of his his left hand and three fingers on his right hand. Depression was a predictable side effect and tortured him for months.
Thanks to Dorlita’s devotion he pulled through and proposed. The couple married at New Bethel Tabernacle Church in South Bend, Indiana, on October 16th, 2016, with the groom walking down the aisle despite not having a working prosthetic leg and half of a foot. Mr. Blakely has completed his minister’s license and hopes to do volunteer work in his community.
Recalling the darkest days, he said, “I was active, I liked to keep somewhat fit, I had pride in how I looked. Then I lost my dignity and self-worth. It was a very dark period and felt as though life wasn’t worth living.”
On February 2nd, 2017, after a long struggle with walking on his right foot, Mr. Blakely had surgery. He had his right leg amputated below the knee.