“We’re going to have to amputate your wife’s hands and feet,” the doctors said. “If we don’t, she’ll die.” Marc Wilkens thought of his vibrant, energetic wife, Cyndi Desjardins. After a failed in vitro fertilization attempt, they’d adopted their daughter in 2005. From the time little Cienna could speak, she’d asked for a little brother. Marc and Cyndi tried adopting several more times, but something always fell through. Then, in 2010, they decided to attempt in vitro once again. This time, they were successful and their son, Liam, was born that October.
That was just a few months ago, Marc thought. Now his wife lay in a hospital bed, about to lose her limbs. He could hardly believe what had brought them to this.
“Don’t Pull the Plug”
Four weeks earlier, in February 2011, 42-year-old Cyndi had gone into the hospital with severe flu-like symptoms and a strange pain in her right leg. In septic shock with her kidneys failing, she was given just hours to live.
The doctors put Cyndi into a medically induced coma and placed her on a respirator in hopes that her body would be better able to fight the infection if she didn’t have to breathe on her own.
They soon determined that she had something far more serious than the flu. Cyndi had necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating disease, a rare, often fatal, infection in the deeper layers of the skin.
For more than five weeks, Cyndi remained in the coma, fighting for her life. The doctors were unsure if she would survive.
At one point, it was suggested Marc take her off life support and let Cyndi go. “God, show me that I’m doing the right thing by holding on,” he prayed.
The next day, Cyndi’s mom called Marc. They had not spoken of his inner turmoil.
“You might think I’m crazy,” she began, “but a voice has been telling me that Cyndi wants to fight this. Don’t pull the plug, Marc.”
Marc knew her words were from God, and he never questioned his actions again, not even when the doctors came to him with the fearful news of the quadruple amputations.
When Cyndi woke up from the coma, Marc told her as gently as he could that the doctors had amputated her arms just below the elbows and her legs just below the knees.
“Marc knew I wanted to live no matter what,” says Cyndi, “so he consented to the surgeries. But when he told me what happened, I remember wondering how God could do this to my children.”
Cyndi’s son was just an infant and her daughter was five. “My kids had already been without me for five weeks and then the doctors told me that my rehabilitation would take a year. Being away from them for that long was completely unacceptable to me.”
So Cyndi began to set goals for her recovery. “I just wanted to get back to my children,” she says. Through determination and lots of prayer, Cyndi surprised her doctors and was able to return home in less than six months.
Over the next two years, Cyndi had to relearn everything. “I didn’t know what kind of life I would have,” she admits now, “and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to hold my children again.”
Because of the extensive amount of time she spent in the hospital, little Liam didn’t recognize her when she returned home.
“That was so hard,” she says, fighting back tears. “I just started praying and asking God to show my son who I was. It took nearly a year and a half, but one day, the way he looked at me changed and I knew my prayers had been answered.”
Cyndi’s relationship with her daughter was rebuilt much more quickly. “The first time Cienna saw me, she was afraid of my arms, but by the next visit, she was fine again.”
Since returning home, Cyndi has adapted amazingly. “The Lord has shown me ways to do everything I want to do,” she believes. Cyndi walks using prosthetic legs, which she says feel as if God is carrying her. She is able to drive a car, swim and even crack an egg.
While her accomplishments have been incredible, the most amazing thing about Cyndi is her attitude. She is grateful that her amputations occurred below her knee and elbow joints. “I have just enough arms left to be able to do so many things.
“Someone asked me recently if I ever have days when I just don’t want to get out of bed,” Cyndi smiles. “But the honest answer is no, I don’t. My illness has caused my world to slow down, and that helps me depend on God for everything.”
Cyndi has begun a public-speaking ministry where she shares her story at churches and civic events. She prays that God can use her experiences to help and encourage others. “Hands and feet are just that—hands and feet. What truly matters is our souls. I pray that my story can bring hope to others in their own times of darkness.
“We have truly come full circle and recaptured our lives,” Cyndi says. “And I’ve never felt more blessed.”