Alliance for Safety Awareness for Patients
I am a survivor of a deadly infection called Necrotizing Fasciitis (known in the media as "flesh eating bacteria.") By the time I entered the OR, my temperature was 106°, I was septic and in end stage multiple organ failure. Surgeons removed the skin, fat, fascia, and a lot of muscle from my right arm, including most of my inner forearm, and almost all of my upper right arm and shoulder. My entire right armpit, a lymph node and a small, adjoining section of my right breast were also removed. No bone was lost, so I got to keep my arm, such as it is: contracted, scarred, limited in its mobility, extremely painful; but functional.
The first night I was in the ICU, I was given a 4% chance of survival. I was comatose, placed on a ventilator and given multiple antibiotics. I refused to give up... I had my elderly father to care for back at home and I was very committed to him. When I finally awoke, I was strapped to the bed, my right arm suspended from an IV pole, still on the ventilator, with tubes and wires everywhere. I couldn't move or speak and felt like I was choking on the ventilator tube. The day I got off the ventilator was the happiest day of my life. A nurse brushed my teeth, I was given a juicebox. Cranberry. Nothing ever tasted better before or since that first drink on the first day of my new life...
I was hospitalized for six weeks, and endured endless IVs (medications and nutrition), blood transfusions and an eight hour skin graft surgery. I no longer have a right shoulder. My arm is contracted at the elbow, the skin is tight and fused to the injured muscle that remains. I've adjusted to its limitations fairly well, but not to the pain, which I will have for the rest of my life.
I'm not out of the woods, nor will I ever be. I have pulmonary heart disease because my heart and lungs were damaged by the ordeal. The removal of the lymph node has given me secondary Stage 1 Lymphedema, for which there is no cure. Ironically, lymphedema makes its sufferers prone to infection. Lymphedema is a debilitating condition, worsens over time, and can become lymphatic cancer.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?
I acquired several strains of bacteria while caring for my elderly father, who was sent home time and time again by his HMO with hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA (antibiotic resistant staph), VRE and C-Difficile. His caseworker even implied that his infections were "normal for an elderly individual." (NOT true!)
Not once did Dad's "entourage" inform me of how very infectious he was, nor did they ever offer any prevention suggestions, even though I cleaned/changed catheters, and give him "Push IV" antibiotics. Due to their omission, I nearly lost my life. Dad passed away about a year later, three months shy of his 88th birthday.
I feel it is important to share what I have learned from my battle with infection because the CDC and most physicians have not provided the public enough facts about MRSA. Contrary to popular belief, the media has actually downplayed the seriousness of MRSA. Occasionally you hear about the deadly cases, but you rarely hear about survivors, like me, who have to live with the infection's after-effects:
I depend on a power wheelchair to get around, due to massive swelling (Lymphedema) in my feet, legs and abdomen, and because my heart and lungs are too weak to take any exertion. I am deeply grateful to Laura Summer, Mark Evanier and other members of the voice-over community, who contributed their time and donations that helped me obtain my chair. It's so nice to be able to go out again.
UPDATE: In April 2011, I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and Exercise-Induced Asthma. I feel fairly certain that my NF ordeal played a big role in my getting these additional conditions at the age of 49.
In closing, I'd like to say: My greatest hope is that through awareness, the spread of MRSA will cease, and nobody else will have to go through the nightmare of NF. Please use the Internet to learn all you can about the prevention of MRSA and other hospital- and community-acquired infections!
IT'S A FACT: Whenever you use an antibiotic, you're increasing your susceptibility to developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic.
READ MORE ABOUT NF:
READ MORE ABOUT MY ORDEAL:
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