A 59-year-old man is out of hospital after spending a month in intensive care due to infection from the bubonic plague. Paul Gaylord, 59, developed the symptoms after he was bitten by a stray cat his family had adopted.
The cat, named Charlie, had caught a rodent which was stuck in his throat. It is thought that the rat was infected by fleas, which carry the disease.
Initially, Mr Gaylord thought he had the flu when he developed a fever after the bite. After antibiotics failed to make him feel better, he was rushed to hospital when his lymph nodes swelled to the size of lemons.
He still faces surgery to remove his withered, blackened fingers and toes - one of the symptoms of the terrible disease that gave it the name, the 'black death'.
Although the welder will not be able to work again, he is lucky to be alive. 'They tell me I'm doing really good considering,' he told OregonLive.com from his hospital bed at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon. 'I do feel lucky. I'm going to have a long row to hoe but at least I have one.'
Mr Gaylord's mother, Almeda, 81, explained how close her son came to death. 'His heart stopped. His lung collapsed. They told us he wasn't going to make it,' she said.
Mr Gaylord spent nearly a month on life support and it was so touch-and-go at one point that his son, Jake, flew in from Austin, Texas, to say goodbye. His wife organised a baptism as Mr Gaylord has always regretted not being christened as a child.
'I was delirious,' said Mr Gaylor of his memory of the month he spent in intensive care. 'Things didn't seem real. The clock ran backwards.' Now he's recovered, Mr Gaylord will have to learn how to walk again and use his fingerless hands. 'It will be a long rehab,' he said. 'I have to learn to do everything again.'
Although the plague is generally connected to the Middle Ages, Mr Gaylor is the 17th person sickened by the disease in Oregon since 1934. It causes an infection that kills cells, causing gangrene which often results in amputation, if not death.