Kaitlyn Dobrow, 25, from southern California, was a fit, active 18-year-old when she caught bacterial meningitis.
The terrifying illness caused her to lose more than half of her skin and required all four limbs to be amputated.
On the night before she was admitted to hospital, Kaitlyn had a bad headache and spent the night with intense fever, a bloated stomach and threw up.
She explained: ‘My mum asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I didn’t feel well enough. I went to the bathroom and my knees almost buckled underneath me. That was the last time I stood up on my legs.
‘Within those first 12 hours my whole body started to turn purple. It progressed very fast. The meningitis got into my bloodstream and pretty much cut off all circulation to my skin and limbs.
‘The disease kept eating away at my arm and they kept having to cut it shorter and shorter. I ended up getting all of my limbs amputated.’
As well as her amputations, the meningitis also took 57% of Kaitlyn’s skin – necessitating a large number of surgeries to help cover the damaged areas.
A lot of the surgeries involved taking skin from areas that weren’t affected by the illness to help grow the skin back.
After going through the ordeal of rehab, Kaitlyn channelled her energies into makeup as one of the few things she felt she could still do with her prosthetics.
She said: ‘I’m self-taught in terms of makeup.
‘I think makeup changes the way that I feel about myself. I wanted to start my YouTube channel because I used to watch a lot of makeup tutorials when I was recovering, that’s when I became obsessed with it.
‘I was like “that looks really fun and something that I could do”.
‘Beauty to me is someone conquering something in their life that feels bigger to them. Something more than looks, it’s something that you feel.’
Kaitlyn is now a successful beauty vlogger and disability rights advocate with 16 million views and 235,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than 132,000 followers on Instagram.
She says that while her illness has given her a new her outlook on life, not everything about her has changed.
Kaitlyn said: ‘Before I got sick I was very sassy, which I guess I still kind of am!
‘Over the years it’s become more real that my life has changed a lot. It’s taken a long time to accept my life as it is.
‘But posting on YouTube and Instagram makes me feel like I’m doing something that I’m good at. I like the positive reinforcement, but I also love helping other people.
‘There are people who say they were too depressed to get out of bed and I inspired them to put makeup on and do at least one thing in their day.’
Kaitlyn’s dad Donald added: ‘To go through an experience like this and come out healthy, happy, strong, wonderful, beautiful individual, I totally admire her.’
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