Ricky Oliver


On Saturday, December 30th, Ricky was in South Texas deer hunting and stuck a Mesquite thorn in his knuckle on his left hand. Then about an hour later he skinned a deer. Like, most of us he never even thought twice about the thorn nor skinning the deer without protective gloves on. He than came home Sunday afternoon and said he was tried and did not feel good. By Monday morning he was still in his chair now with fever and cold chills. Thinking this is great he now has the flu, because about 2 – 3 weeks ago he had came down with a sinus/cold infection and had been taking antibiotics from the doctor and this was just a recurrence of that. Monday night his hand was starting to swell and there was a red blisters about the size of a nickel were he was stuck by the thorn. So, we soaked his hand in Epson salt and hot water. He was still having fever, chills, and no appetite. Since Monday was a holiday, first thing Tuesday morning I was going to get him into our family doctor. Tuesday morning rolled around and by this time his hand was so swollen and had these blisters and red marks all over it (kind of shaped like broccoli, some were larger than others and different shades of red, pink and purple). The minute our family doctor saw his hand he told us to get over to the ER immediately. We sat down in the ER for about two (2) minutes and they called him back (which that should have told us how serious this was). Then they transported Ricky to the College Station Medical Center it was the closes place that an Infectious Disease doctor and a Hand Specialist was on call together. Arriving at College Station about 9:00 PM they told us he had Necrotizing Fasciitis (neck-row-tize-ing fash-e-i-tis) known as flesh eating bacteria. The one thing that everyone kept asking me was had he been in salt water – NO. Before going into surgery Ricky had signed a release form to amputate a limb if needed. His veins had started to clasp that they finally started an IV in his foot. By 10:00 PM they were rolling him into surgery. Just after 1:00 AM the doctor came out and told me that they had prepped up to his elbow now they were prepping him all the way up to his shoulder and across his chest because the bacteria was traveling faster than the doctor could stop it. The doctor said that he could see it moving up his arm and that it looked like a green fluorescent strike going up his arm. The doctor said that at this time Ricky was a man standing in the middle of a forest on fire, his kidneys, liver and lungs were shutting down and that they might have to amputate his arm if he could not stop it. A little after 3:00 AM the doctor came out reported that he had gotten the bacteria and he had removed the skin, flesh and fat cells from right above the elbow and all the way down to the last joint on his fingers (leaving only the palm, the tip of his fingers and fingernails) and he was in very critical condition. The next morning when the doctor came in I ask about his arm and he said his arm was not even a question at this time that he was just trying to keep him alive because of all his vital organs were still trying to shut down. By Thursday morning we thought things were getting better but around 10:00 AM my world turned upside down again. The blisters had come back but this time they were on the other hand around his IV. It looked just like the beginning stages of the blisters on the left hand, they rushed him into emergency surgery. After surgery the doctor came out and told me that it was not in his right hand, and he had cut several holes out of his wrist and arm and some slits in hand to make sure it was not there. On Friday the doctor reported that his vital organs were working around 75% and he was transported to UTMB Burn Center in Galveston, Texas. At UTMB Saturday morning when they finally removed the breathing tube and he was waking up he thought his arm was gone and a nurse did he still have an arm. They had this big black sponge on his left hand and arm with a vacuum suction on it and I think the site of the sponge scared him that he thought his arm was gone. Later, when he was able to talk it was like Ricky had finally come back to life. On Monday, January 8th he went in to surgery for a skin graph. At this time the doctors felt like his arm was not ready to graph his own skin because he had some slim and brownish build up on his arm and instead of risking losing his own skin (because it was going to take so much of his own skin from his legs) they scraped his arm and used cadaver skin to cover some of the wounds. The doctor said about 4 days later he would unwrap his arms and see if the cadaver skin was working and they will do surgery Friday to graph his own skin. If the temporary skin is not working they are going to start debriding his skin 3 or 4 times a day (soaking the bandage, letting it dry then peeling it off). They say this is very, very painful. So, this is where we are as of Tuesday the 9th. I know I went into a lot of detail, but I just want everyone to know how serious this was and can happen to anyone - don't be hard headed about going to the doctor (and this was both of us) or think you can make it better in time. I almost lost my friend, my companion, and my husband for life in a matter of hours. Follow Up – January 18, 2007 Finally, we are home. Talk about camping out, I had my own little "Oliver Camp" going on over in one corner of the ICU waiting room. You know you have been there to long when you even know the code to the ICU doors and they don't even run you out after visiting hours. On Thursday, January 11th they unwrapped his arm and the cadaver skin had taken very well to his arm. The next day he went into surgery and they graphed his own skin to cover his arm. The doctor said everything went well in surgery and we would have to wait 4 days before they would unwrapped his arm to see how his skin took. The worst part of the skin graph was his "Donor Sites". Donor Sites are the areas of skin removed from your body. They removed skin from his upper thighs and put a mesh fabric (like a cheese cloth) over the donor sites. On the second day his legs were all ready starting to heel. They begin to get tight and with the fabric on there it made it more miserable to stand up, walk, or just move his body. Tuesday they unwrapped his arm and it looked great. We knew going into surgery that he would probably have to have several more surgery on the back of his hand and maybe even plastic surgery before his hand is completely covered. This was due to the tendons, because there is nothing there to the skin to attach to. So now, the arm and the other hand look great. Now back up to Sunday, January 14th the doctor had order a CT Scan to check is pancreas. Couple of hours after the CT Scan the doctor called back with a report that he now has been diagnosed with pancreatitis. The normal level is around 225 his was 1,200 that day and had been up to around 1,800 to 1,900 earlier. On Thursday his lipase test came back 474 and the doctor decided to let us go home. Ricky will still have a long road ahead of him for his arm to recover and occupational therapy on it. But, it is like I told him "You are alive and you still have an arm to hug us with". Where 20 days ago we did not even know if you were even going to make it out of surgery alive. I could not have made it through all this without the help of my family and numerous friends. I would like to give a special thanks to Bobbie and Scott Connors for all their help around the house and feeding the animals for us. Not to mention this happen during the coldest and wettest time of the year. Here is an interesting link to survivor stories with Necrotizing Fasciitis. It can happen to anyone: http://www.nnff.org/nnff_survivors.htm Follow Up – March 22, 2007 This is day 69 on Ricky's skin graph and he is doing better each week. He goes to Physical Therapy three (3) times a week and the other days I do his therapy, so there is not a day goes by that we are not working his hand. Our doctor visits are now down to about every two or three weeks at UTMB for a check-up. As of last Monday, March 19th the doctor ordered x-rays of the hand, because he still has a lot of edema in his hand. Results from the x-rays showed no signs of infection in the hand, still just a lot of edema. Until the middle tendon is completely covered with skin the edema will be there or the worse is that the edema may have already sat up residents in his hand and never go away. The doctors are still telling him to keep his hand above his heart. As for as the use of his hand he has gone from holding nothing between his thumb and index finger to holding a cup of jell-o, than an ice cream cone and last week he was able to hold a slice of pizza. We never knew holding a piece of food could make someone so happy. At this time we have no time frame when he will have full use of his hand or if he will ever have full use again. The above picture was taken on March 22, 2007 (day 69 after the skin graph). He is doing and looking much better. The other picture taken in May 2007 would be Peyton receiving her certificate for "Outstanding Example" for 3rd Grade. Ricky still has to wrap his wrap each finger individually with Coban and his arm, plus keep it protected from the sun. Follow Up – January 15, 2008 A year has past by and he still goes to physical therapy weekly on his hand. He has about 75% usage of his hand and that is probably as good as it will get. Our thoughts and prayers go out to each and everyone that has lost a love me or has been a victim of this horrible disease.