Tiffany Inbody

The story below is about my survival from necrotizing fasciitis that began in March 2007. I have permission from the newspaper to use the story. I haven't finished a first-person account. I seem to get stuck when I describe the wound changes. My family found the NNFF website extremely helpful especially in the early days of my infection, and I wanted to share my story in case it helps others. Let me know if you need any additional, or different, information. Jan Richards is a good friend who has been a contact for me with the NF group. Thank you so much for your dedication to sharing information about NF! Sincerely, Tiffany Printed in the Bryan-College Station Eagle on Sunday, August 26, 2007 Woman fights for her survival Aggie heals from 'flesh-eating' bug By HOLLY HUFFMAN Eagle Staff Writer Awash in sunlight streaming in through the window, Tiffany Inbody sat in her office and shivered as she recalled the intense pain that used to spread across her body. During the worst moments, her husband took her hand and distracted her with talk of bike rides, vacations yet-to-be planned and predictions of the future for their newborn daughter. Sometimes, she'd slip on her headphones and listen to Robert Earl Keen sing Feelin' Good Again. When that didn't work, she went to her mental "happy place," she said. "I'm not really a better person by any stretch of the imagination," Inbody said, laughing as she explained that she still fusses at people while driving and eats food that isn't healthy - despite a recent life-threatening fight."But I am still here." Just five months ago, the communications director for Texas A&M's Vice President of Research and mother of two was hospitalized with necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly referred to as flesh-eating bacteria disease. The infection is caused by strep bacteria, which also causes the more common strep throat, according to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation. The bacteria is spread when someone carrying it -they don't have to be sick - coughs or sneezes on another person. Spread through respiratory droplets, the bacteria can enter the body through an opening as small as a pin prick or even where skin has been weakened by a blister or bruise, the foundation Web site states. A person also can be infected following a major trauma or surgery, according to the Web site. Inbody was hospitalized for about a month after being infected. Though she completed outpatient treatments just a few weeks ago, a U-shaped scar extending 38 centimeters end-to-end serves as a reminder of her recent battle. "You can either look at it and be afraid of everything you come in contact with - or you can just live your life and be aware," she said. "You deal with what's in front of you, and you pray about the rest." From triumph to trauma It was a Friday in March when she gave birth via Ceasarean section to her daughter, Morgan. She was discharged from College Station Medical Center on Sunday, the same day her husband, David, a lieutenant in the National Guard, was scheduled to return to Fort Benning, Georgia. Two days later, Tiffany Inbody returned to the hospital to have her staples removed. She noticed a slight pain and clear discharge near one of the staple punctures, but thought nothing of it, she said. Within hours, however, she had a fever, a rash and was feeling shaky. The doctor scheduled a follow-up appointment the following morning, but Inbody, too weak to get out of bed, missed the appointment, she said. Worried, her doctor called and stressed the importance of the checkup. He continued to call, she said, until she relented. "There's a lot of hours in that day that I really, truly don't remember," she said Thursday, sitting at the conference table in her third-floor office in the Texas A&M administration building. "Basically, I think it was pretty much the will of God that got me off the floor and somewhat dressed." Inbody said her father and father-in-law had to carry her to the car. As she was being wheeled into her doctor's office, she was spotted by her nurse, who immediately noticed how her health had deteriorated since her appointment the previous day. The doctor, too, was concerned, she said. He took one look at the infected area and immediately ordered her to adjoining St. Joseph Regional Health Center, where she arrived in full septic shock. Inbody remembers little more than a "huge cloud of people" hovering around her and what seemed like an endless series of needle pricks. But during the next 24 hours, the 32-year-old would endure three surgeries as doctors and nurses rushed to excavate infected tissue before it could spread.She eventually was left with a U-shaped wound that starts under one side of her rib cage, traces down to her belly button and back up the other side. The wound, at its largest, was roughly 7.5 centimeters wide and 2.5 centimeters deep, she said. "It was very, very, very large," she said, remembering how she originally was too scared to check to make sure her belly button was still there. "Most people had not seen a wound of that size." By the third surgery - which took place Thursday, the same day her husband flew back to Texas - lab workers had identified the bacteria eating away at the tissue, and doctors were able to begin treatment. But the worst wasn't over. Opting against a painful thigh skin graft, Inbody had to undergo wound vacuum treatments. Stuffed deep into her wound were layers of sponge like material filled with silver, an antiseptic. Two suction cups were connected to tubes leading to the machine, which massaged the wound and sucked up fluid so the tissue could regrow, she said. The worst pain came when it was time to change the spongelike material, a procedure that had to be done every other day while she was hospitalized. Each layer of sponge would have to be slowly peeled away from her body tissue, she said, furrowing her brow as she recalled the process.It was not good," said Inbody, a member of Texas A&M's class of 1997. The road to recovery Back at work since early July, Inbody still doesn't know how she contracted the rare and often deadly bacteria, though, she said, she's certain she was not infected at the hospital. Somehow, she said, she simply happened upon that "perfect storm" of bacteria. Early on, it was easy for Inbody to explain away her aches as symptoms of various minor ailments. But the young mother said she won't make that mistake again. Her husband remains home for now. He quit his full-time job when he originally left for National Guard training in Georgia. He was on emergency leave while at home caring for his wife and two young children, his wife said. But that ran out and he was unemployed for about two months before finding a temporary position with the local National Guard unit. He plans to return to Georgia in November to restart his training, she said. Having her husband out of work created a financial hardship for the family - as did learning that St. Joseph wasn't considered a "network" hospital under her health insurance. The medical bills have reached about a quarter of a million dollars, she said, but she doesn't yet know how she and her insurance company will split the bill. Inbody says she's had plenty of bad days throughout this process. But she keeps a smile on her face as she tells her story. She is alive, she says, and the rest of the problems will work themselves out. Though she refuses to waste time worrying about being reinfected with the deadly bacteria, she said she won't hesitate to see her doctor if she ever again feels that mix of flulike symptoms. She encourages others to do the same. "You just can't make that mistake," she said. "You don't have a lot of time."