Andrew Ferguson

Hi. My name is Andrew Ferguson. I am from Melbourne Australia. And I am a survivor of NF. In October 2009 I was at the start of a holiday with my wife in Oberammagau in the German (Bavarian) Alps. My wife and I had traveled to Garmisch Partenkirchen from a small town on the Bodensee (Lake Constance) called Immenstadt where I had been working with on a NATO Defence project (my wife had joined me two days previously). We arrived in Garmisch late on the Saturday afternoon, then I had a swim in the Hotel swimming pool, followed by a sauna and a Back and "deep tissue massage" at the hotel followed by dinner. My wife and I then walked around the town before heading to bed. The following morning I woke, not feeling very well, but as is normal for me I put it down to a bad stomach and indigestion. After breakfast we decided to head to Oberammgau to visit the Passion Play house before heading to Giselkirchen Castle in our hire car Although not well I thought the drive and fresh air would settle things down.. Our plans were to do these short visits, then on the Monday we were due to drive to Munich, before taking the Overnight Orient Express Sleeper train from Munich to Venice then boarding a cruise ship for 14 days to Egypt and Israel, ending up in the Greek Islands and then Athens. The cruise (with the best suite on the ship ) was a small legacy left to me by my mother who had died the previous year. Anyway we reached Oberammgau mid morning and we were in the Passion Play House when I suddenly felt very ill, needing to rush to the toilet. Whilst there I started to vomit, and lost all control of bladder and bowel and I collapsed on the floor of the toilet. My wife meanwhile was on the tour in the Passion Play House. I came to in a bit of a mess and staggered back to the Hire car into the drivers seat. Here I started to get what I now know is Rigors and Chills. My wife eventually discovered me and thinking I was having a heart attack came to the rescue. However I seem to recover a bit and I decided we should return to the Hotel in Garmisch. As I was the only one authorised to drive the car, we drive at 10kms per hour with our hazard warning lights on the 35kms back to Garmisch round these German Alpine roads and multiple hairpin bends (A crazy situation looking back) However as we approached Garmisch I was getting worse and worse, so my wife looked up the Hospital co-ordinates on the GPOS and we headed there. On arrival I had gone into another Rigors attack with chills and was unable to get out of the hire care. I was rushed into Emergency where for the next 10 hours I was given every test known to man, CT scan, Xray, Ultrasound etc etc. Blood cultures were taken and retaken. After some 10 hours they decided I had a Streptoccus B infection of the lower leg and put me on a series of different antibiotics treatments. My cousin is a Pharmacist and was texting my wife with details of the drugs and effects. By now it was already 3 days past and the cruise ship had left Venice, but the antibiotic treatment was not working. Then on the evening of the 3rd day one of the nurses noted large golf ball size blisters forming on my left lower inside leg. She called a doctor, then another doctor then a senior doctor and finally a surgeon was called (who spoke English). I should explain no one speaks English in Bavaria. The surgeon said that they now realised that I had necrotising faciitis caused ny the Strep infection and that he was going to have to operate and probably needed to amputate the left leg from the thigh down as the infection was spreading rapidly. My wife was summoned from the hotel and I then headed into the Operating Theatre. I told them I could do without the leg, but I wasn't ready to die yet! One item the doctor did say was that the Garmisch Hospital was only a local hospital and for this sort of surgery they would normally evacuate me to a specialist hospital near Munich that dealt with this sort of surgery, but that with the spread of the infection, any further delay could cause me to die. With that I headed into the Operating theatre. That was the start of a 12 week affair. Apparently after opening up my left leg (outside at first) they derided a lot of tissue and I was then taken to OR, then transferred by air ambulance to the Specialist 800 bed "Umfalklinink in Murnau am Staffelsee" which specialises in Septic Surgery, major trauma victims and road accident victims. I went straight into Intensive Care Ward and then into a Hyperbaric Chamber Ward for intensive Oxygen therapy. My wife accompanied me. After 2 days in Intensive Care they operated again on my left leg doing more surgical debridement to remove the tissue and remove any pressure as I was developing compartment syndrome. I then had two open wound dressings, but I still had my leg (or at least a slimmed down leg). I was then in the Intensive Care Unit, before being pt onto a Ward. My two fellow room members spoke no English and the only TV programs were in Bavarian. My only good thing for the first2 weeks was my Wife's daily visits as she had moved to Murnau into a German Guest House. Of course we also only had summer clothes for the Cruise. At this stage I was still pretty sick, but the constant intravenous antibiotics therapy was working albeit slowly. However after 3 weeks on the ward, I took another turn for the worse and it was back to the operating theatre for more debridement an another 3 days in the hyperbaric chamber. Then it was back to the ward. Another 2 weeks went on and again I was back in the operating theatre for a fourth episode, but luckily this was to check the tissue and sew me up (from the open wound treatments). I was then in the hospital on the ward for another 5 weeks. I then had physical therapy and all sorts of drug treatments. The Hosopital staff though were amazing and the treatment was first class. Infection control is a big thing and (the temperature on the wards is kept at 20C so lots of Quilts . Eventually I got my wife to smuggle in a Hot water bottle (they are not aloeed in German Hospitals( to keep me wartm at night as I had trouble sleeping. I also used to wear socls in bed and a woollen head cap (to keep my head warm. The nurses called me the crazy Australian, but they all came for "English lessons". Anyway if you ever get sick in Germany ask for a transfer to one of the Umfalkliniks as their clinical care is among the best in the world. Eventually I was released on crutches before flying back to the United Kingdom (although at first British Airways wouldn't let me fly without a letter from the hospital). Eventually I reached London still not well, but glad to be out of the hospital. A train journey then to the West Country with help from friends got my wife & I back to our United Kingdom house where a visit by my UK doctor meant another week in bed (at least in my home). However as an Australian resident, our Insurance company wanted us back into Australia, where their cover would end. So one week before Xmas, and 10 weeks since we were headed on our cruise, an ambulance collected me from my UK house some 180 miles from Heathrow and transported my wife and I to Heathrow, where Qantas had upgraded us to Business Class to allow me travel with my leg elevated. On arrival in Melbourne I then spent another 12 weeks in rehabilitation before I could walk again. 12 months almost to the day, I got another bout of the infection, with the rigours and chills returning and the infection spreading up the leg from the original location but clearly in the lymph glands right up into the groin. My wife called the ambulance as I was at home (but she was at work). They eventually came after an 40 minute wait (as I was considered a non urgent case). Heart attacks and Strokes get higher priority in Australia. By the time the ambulance arrived I had started to go into shock with my blood pressure falling. I was then rushed as a Priority 1 to the Emergency Hospital in the City (we live 15 miles out in the suburbs). One day in the Public Emergency Ward led to 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit of the Private wing of the Hospital and then 10 days on the ward. Again the dreaded Streptoccus B infection had occurred with prominent systemic symptoms including rigours, chills, sweats and fatigue. The re-infection caused prominent lymphangitis. After 10 days of intervention and oral penicillin, I was discharged with another 2 weeks at home and another 4 weeks on crutches, but luckily no further surgery. What I am left with is though a damaged leg which frequently cause severe cramps in the night. I also cannot travel in Economy Class any longer on flights, and I am on a permanent regime of penicillin twice a day. I also carry a letter describing the treatment and cause and effect with me 24 hours a day. This is essential as it took the Garmisch Hospital nearly two days to work out the problem. Since 2010 (the second episode) luckily I have not had a further attack, But I no longer swim in Hotel swimming pools, I am very nervous about any times I stub my left leg, never forget a scratch or even insect bite, but I am still traveling with a cruise to Alaska in 2011 with my wife and three round the world business trips. But I get the airline to get me to each plane by wheel chair and am a registered disabled person, for the car as I cannot stand on my bad leg for more than 10 minutes or so, But thank the lord I still have something of a leg, although sitting too long also causes some pain. I have had one further episode in hospital (kidney syomes), but now the letter I carry with me gives the hospitals immediate notice for extra care as they with mild diabetes now I have to especially careful of things. But I am a survivor!