Doug Fitzpatrick

In 1971, I had the first of a series of neurological episodes that was finally diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. In 1982, I was in the hospital for a few routine in-patient tests when I developed a minor infection in my knee. It got out of control, went septic and I lost the leg at the hip. After a month in ICU, I was still too weak to lift my arms and listed as a "No Code". I was a practicing Catholic at the time and between July and October I received Extreme Unction (The Last Rites) seven times. When I was finally discharged in January, the word around the parish was that it was an honest-to-God, quick-call-the-Pope, actual Miracle. During the next six months I recovered my strength, got a job with the Department of Energy and started graduate school. Life was back on track. Now, on comes 1996 and I'm living alone. I went to bed about midnight, feeling fine. My brother drives over early on the morning of June 6th to go over a proposal we're making to a Canadian software company. He makes coffee and brings a cup upstairs to my bedroom. He can't seem to wake me up and when I stop breathing he calls EMSA. 4 1/2 minutes later I arrive in the ER turning blue and all hell breaks loose. By three in the afternoon my remaining leg has turned black, every single body system has failed and my kids are flying in from Colorado. No one thinks they will make it in time. The Chief of Staff of the Medical Center tells my brother that nothing in his training has prepared him for what he sees. My kidneys and liver have shut down, I am comatose and on a respirator, my red blood cells are being killed off faster than I can be transfused, my blood chemistry is wildly out of limits and there is a good chance that I have suffered brain damage. It has not been a good day. Early the next morning my team of doctors, which now includes the Chief of Internal Medicine, informs my family that unless they remove my other leg I will probably die within the hour. But it is a tremendous risk they say and even if it succeeds, it may only prolong my life for a few days. They aren't sure that I would want to live with that degree of mutilation even if I did somehow survive and leave the decision to my children. After a moment's reflection they said "Do it.". I remained in a coma in ICU for two weeks and it wasn't until late July that anyone really believed I might survive. My first coherent memory of that time isn't until Thanksgiving dinner. I spent until March of 1997 in the hospital - system by system, inch by inch, coming back. Besides the mid-thigh amputation, between June of 1996 and March of this year, I have had a colostomy, two major skin grafts and five reconstructive surgeries on my lower back. All totaled, I have had 38 major operations since 1980, survived two pulmonary embolisms, a cardiac arrest and because of the MS, am also paraplegic. The up-side is that I am still able to live alone and, with the occasional help of my friends, am independent. No one knows how I contracted NF but the fact that I have MS may explain why it was so severe. I have absolutely no doubt that God intervened and preserved my life and I am joined in that belief by several hard-bitten and normally skeptical doctors! The picture was taken in Breckenridge Colorado where I was learning to sit-ski. Once again, life is back on track. "Never give in! Never, never, never, never, NEVER give in!" - Winston Churchill