Gary Hagelthorn

My name is Gary Hagelthorn, I reside in New Jersey and recently was infected with the dreaded bacteria we all know as necrotizing fasciitis. I never thought I would be writing about this ordeal until reading all the stories of the other people who went through this. I was inspired by those who survived and sympathized with the unfortunates who have not. It all happened so quickly in the beginning. If not for some close friends who did an intervention forcing me to go to a hospital this story may not have ever been told. Back in early May of 2012 I started to have severe pain in my right hip that was so intense I could hardly even take a step. As usual we men assume its nothing that rest, ice and ibuprofen would resolve, and that is exactly what I did for the next several days. I felt a little better and decided to try to go to work but when I got home that day the pain increased and traveled to my left side. So there I was, practically immobile and unable to get out of bed. Instead of seeking help, I again started the same ineffectual treatment for several days with no or little relief. My friend Angelo was concerned so he helped get me transported to a nearby hospital in Hoboken NJ. I was in the emergency room there for several hours and after repeated examinations and x-rays they saw nothing wrong and attributed it to muscle strains and sent me home in an ambulance with pain medication. After three more days of no improvement I started to become more anxious about my condition but still thought it would go away. Late one night I was awoken by my two friends, Peter and Angelo who somehow managed to get into my apartment after being sick with worry. They demanded I go to another hospital immediately after being advised by their family members who are in the medical field. At first I argued that it wouldn't help but eventually I had to agree. I was brought to Palisades Medical Center and after numerous tests I was told by a doctor that they needed to operate on me immediately for a severe infection in my legs. At that time I wasn't aware of the type of infection they were attempting to treat. It wasn't until the next morning that the doctor explained to me the type of infection and how bad it was and that they removed over 100 cc of infected material . He also informed me if I waited a few more days to come in he and I would not have been having this conversation. He assured me they got it all and that I should fully recover. After one more surgery I was set up with the vacuum pumps on both thighs and finally placed into a regular room. I was bed ridden for weeks and it took a great deal of energy to even sit up. For some reason I was still having some pain in my right hip and asked for a scan or MRI to see if I have any joint damage. A week before being sent to a rehab center to learn how to walk again they finally performed the MRI and scan. They found a small cyst that seemed to be feeding that area. They drained it immediately and kept me on antibiotics which remedied my hip discomfort. I then went to a rehab facility called Care One in Teaneck NJ. If not for my physical therapist team along and the love and support of family and some very close friends of mine (Fred, Madison and Suzanne) I never would have been able to walk out of there in just 4 weeks. I am still dealing with daily bandage changes on my right thigh (due to the size of the wound), but my left side has totally healed. After almost four months I am now back to work and even driving. I have started to return to my life as it was before with some disability but with great improvement to my outlook on life in general. I consider myself very fortunate and look forward to the future and owe it all to the wonderful staff at both facilities that worked so hard to help me recover and those two good (and extremely persistent) friends Peter and Angelo, who thankfully were more stubborn than me. I just hope this dreaded disease gets the attention and funding it needs to make my story the norm and not the exception. Good luck to you all.