PORTLAND -- Issa Kamara knows there are some things a devastating illness can’t take away, like faith and family.
“God put her in my life for a reason because he knew what was going to happen in the future," Kamara says about his wife. "He knew I needed someone who would be there."
Five months ago Issa was an active dad working full time in health insurance.
He was married to his Benson High sweetheart. The two are graduates of Oregon State University.
In January, Issa traveled to West Africa to visit relatives. Two weeks after returning, the symptoms started.
“Within minutes I couldn’t breathe," he remembers. "My heart started beating a lot faster and I started to get these cold chills.”
Less than 24 hours later Issa was in intensive care at a Portland hospital.
“The doctor said, 'I don’t have time to answer questions; We have to get in there and help him because he’s going to die,'” his wife Janira recalls.
Issa survived Meningococcal Septicemia. The dangerous bacteria claimed his lower legs, feet and hands, but he survived an illness with a 40 per cent death rate.
“I’m the same person I was before, just a little less. My brain is still intact. My motivation is still there to do better in life,” he says.
He spent three months in the hospital and still goes to physical therapy sessions each week. He works on standing and walking with new prosthetic legs.
Dialysis is also necessary three times a week, since his kidneys stopped working.
“Even now he calls me and says, 'I know you’re not sleeping. I know you’re crying,'" his mother Hawa says. "It’s just a blessing to still have him.”
Issa is incredibly honest about what he feels and says sometimes he forgets he’s missing anything.
“The other day we went to get sushi and I told my wife to get me some chopsticks and then I remembered I didn’t have hands and couldn’t use them."
He hopes eating sushi and a trip up the stairs will soon be much easier with the help of electric hands, but they’re $40,000 each.
“I just want to be able to do things at home," he says. "I want to be able to play with my son and hold a baby. I’d like to have more kids.”
His wife agrees on one day expanding the family, but for now is content celebrating Issa’s daily victories.
“I can still talk to him. I can still hug him and kiss him. No hands and feet we can work on that but you can’t add somebody back in your life,” she says as Issa reaches up to wipe away a tear.
A fund has been set up under Issa Kamara's name at OnPoint Credit Union. A fundraising dinner was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 9th, at St. Charles Church.