On February 2, 2008, the day after my 62nd birthday, I had just won my tennis match and was in a great mood as I prepared dinner to celebrate with my family.
The next day, however, I didn’t feel well at all and thought that maybe I’d caught a stomach bug. After several days sick in bed, I began to talk nonsense and act strangely. (I don’t actually remember much about this period. Others have told me what followed.) My husband called the doctor, who ordered me to the ER a nearby hospital. I was very agitated and actually refused at first to go with him to the hospital. My condition rapidly worsened as we waited. Finally, after more than six hours, doctors realized that I was in serious trouble and I was rushed to another hospital.
Doctors there put me on wide-spectrum antibiotics as they waited for lab results. I was hooked up to IVs dispensing nutrients, fluids, and medications. I was put on a continuous dialysis machine and a breathing machine.
Tests determined that I had contracted a Group A Streptococcal blood infection. How this bacterium gets into the blood stream is often unknown - as it was in my case – but when it does it can trigger a life-threatening reaction in a matter of hours even though the infection might have started from a minor skin scrape.
For the first two weeks in the ICU, my life hung by a thread. Doctors put me in a chemically induced coma. I remember nothing. My husband ordered 24 hour nursing care because I couldn’t speak or push a call button. My extremities began to turn black for lack of blood flow. Gangrene set in.
I was finally awakened to find a doctor standing at my bedside. She informed me that the tissue death from sepsis had required amputation of my legs (below the knees) and arms (below the elbows). Until then, I had been a physically active 62-year-old woman who played tennis almost every day. Was I having a bad dream?
In April, after enduring numerous medical complications, including pneumonia, MRSA, C. dif. and various other superbug infections, I was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital across town. By then I was a shadow of my former self. At 85 pounds I had lost a third of my body mass and the strength to move. I had become totally helpless.
But eventually I snapped back. Exercising every day, I gradually gained the strength to get up out of bed and walk again. Today I travel with my husband a great deal, take long walks, climb stairs, play golf (sort of), drive a car and prepare meals. I published a cookbook recently that shows other amputees techniques and recipes I’ve developed in the kitchen.
Life is good again.
I’ve come a long way since my bout with sepsis. Limb loss is the price I paid to survive it.
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