Sondra Kettlewell

Hi, my name is Sondra Kettlewell (Fairfax) and I live in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. I am a dental hygienist and I am married and have two wonderful children ages: 7 and 11. It all began on October 24, 2007. I was at work in the morning and I suddenly felt like I was getting the flu. I could feel this weakness in my legs. I began to feel sick but I remained at work until the end of the work day. I went home and took some advil because I was feeling feverish and every muscle, bone, joint was aching. I went to bed and in the morning I showered and went to work again. I felt horrible but I just kept taking advil to keep my fever at bay and take away the pain. I just kept thinking that I could finish out the day and have the weekend to recuperate. That night, I went to bed and curled up in a ball shaking with the chills. On Friday I started to feel better in the morning so I did some work around the house but by mid morning I started to feel pain in my groin and stomach area. I put a heating pad on my stomach because I thought it was just cramps from the flu. By Saturday I could feel a swelling in my groin and the area was getting more painful. I was taking advil every 4hrs for the fever. 3 times I woke up in the middle of the night totally drenched from the fever. I finally called Telehealth to see if I should go to the doctors. They advised me to stop taking meds and go to see a doctor in 2-3 hrs. So I set off for the emergency at the hospital. I was seen fairly soon because of my high temperature and pain in the stomach area. The nurse thought it might be my appendix. After 6hrs of tests including blood, urine and a chest X-ray, the doctor concluded that I had a virus and would continue to feel poorly for a few more days. I was sent home with nothing. I stayed in bed and drank water by the sip fulls so I wouldn't get dehydrated. I did not feel nauseous or have diarrhea. On Sunday I noticed a red circular spot on the inside of my right thigh that was very painful. My tongue was covered in a white coating. I had a red rash on my torso. I stayed in bed until Tuesday. Every day the pain got worse. I would moan in pain every time I moved. I tried to reach my family doctor but he was away at a conference. Finally on Tuesday October 30th I called my mom to take me to emergency again. I couldn't even get myself out of bed. My mother helped me into pajamas while I screamed in pain and she drove me to the hospital. As soon as they took my blood pressure I was whisked back to a room and they started to put an IV in. My pressure was dangerously low so my vessels were collapsed. It took them several times to get an IV to take. The doctor on duty came to look at me and left immediately to get an infectious specialist who was on duty that day. Fortunately for me, they diagnosed me right away with necrotizing fasciitis. I had a strep rash and strawberry tongue which are signs of strep infection. The redness on my leg was where the flesh eating bacteria was and they had to operate to remove the infected tissue. Because my blood pressure was so low, they couldn't operate until it was stabilized. They said they would lose me on the operating table. They told my mother that my organs were starting to shut down, starting with my kidneys and bowels. After a few hours of meds, (antibiotics and blood pressure medication) I was cleared for surgery. By this time, my husband had arrived. I was admitted to the ICU in the hospital under isolation. Anyone entering had to wear gloves and gown. Unfortunately, my parents and brother had contracted a bad cold virus and were unable to visit me early on in my treatment. The wound was left open so it could be dressed daily and heal from the inside out. I was still having pain in my stomach and they were checking it daily. My surgeon finally decided to cut open my stomach on Friday November 2. He first froze me while I was in my private room and made the incision while my husband stood at my bedside. He said that if the wound bled a lot I wouldn't require more surgery. Well, unfortunately, it didn't bleed enough so the doctor's were worried I had an infection in my abdominal area. He stapled me up and went to schedule surgery for later that night. My husband and I had decided to not bring the children to the hospital at first because I had so many needles and tubes going in and out. By Friday I really wanted to see them, so when I was down in pre-op waiting to go to surgery I asked my husband to get them, so my friend went to pick them up and bring them to see me. The doctor's said they would wait for the kids to arrive. Unknown to me, everyone was thinking that I might not make it because if the infection had spread to my organs, I would likely die. So I saw my children and went into surgery #2. The surgery went well and I didn't have flesh eating in my stomach. Once again, the incision was kept open to dress on a daily basis. I had to have morphine and tegratol every time because the pain was so intense. I thought having a baby was hard!!. Every nurse said that I had a very high pain tolerance. It sure didn't feel like it. Twice a day for weeks, I had my wounds dressed and it would wear me out. I had to get out of bed every day with the physiotherapist to walk a little and do breathing exercises. I had a catheter and my bowels did not move at all. I swelled up so badly that they gave me lasix to get rid of the inflammation. The doctor was joking that I was 6 months pregnant. They would empty a liter of liquid or more a day from the catheter. As a result of the swelling, the skin on my hands totally peeled off starting at the tips of my fingers. Later when I came home, the soles of my feet peeled off as well. My IVs were collapsing so they had to put a central line in my arm. I had to breath oxygen through a nose piece because it helps to speed the healing process. Finally I was told they were going to close up the wounds. I had to wait for an opening in the operating schedule but I couldn't have anything to drink or eat before surgery. I ended up waiting 24 hrs before they could do the surgery. I was so desperate for a drink that I sucked on the sponge mouth cleaners that they put in my mouth to relieve the dryness. I practically begged for anything wet and they gave me a little ice to suck on as well. I stayed in the hospital in ICU until November 16th. I was so happy to be going home. All my IV's were taken out and the catheter as well. I was given stool softeners to get my bowels moving again. I had to be given heparin to prevent blood clots on a daily basis. I went home at 6:00 at night and was very weak and tired. I went to bed that night in my own bed. My husband and mother in law woke me up at 11:00 to take my antibiotics. I was feeling ok. An hour later I woke up out of sleep and I couldn't catch my breath. I had a bell beside my bed that I rang and my husband and mother in law came in to help me. They called 911 and the ambulance came to take me back to the hospital. I needed oxygen to breath but I still couldn't breath normally. When they saw me at the emergency room they said I likely had a blood clot in my lung. They said that I had to stay overnight. I was heartbroken. I had only been home for 6 hrs. After many tests, ultrasound, lung scan and CAT scan they determined that I did have a blood clot. I had to go on coumadin for 3 months to prevent any more clots. Advil (the wonder drug) helped to relieve pain and inflammation that made my breathing better. I was finally released on November 20th after 22 days in the hospital. I continued to have home care dress the wounds as my leg wound was left open even after the last surgery to allow for healing and drainage. On December 31, the wound was finally closed and I went back to work on January 7th. I lost a lot of hair from the coumadin medication but it stopped falling out after I stopped taking the medication. I am blessed to have survived this illness and I want to thank all my family and friends for all their prayers and gifts and help during this difficult time. I feel I was very fortunate to recuperate so quickly when I read about other people taking years to get better. My scars are there to remind me of what I went through but I have all my organs and limbs so I am able to do everything I did before the episode. I hope my story can help others deal with their experiences. One thing that kept me fighting was the fact that I had two young children who needed their mom and a loving husband. Just remember that life is precious and to enjoy every day as it comes. Thank you.