Chris Garey

My husband had been on vacation for three weeks and returned to work on January 5, 2004. He drives a truck and so when he came in on a cold rainy night, the 9th of January 2004, I didn't think a lot about the fact that he was cold. About ten minutes later I noticed he was shivering and at was at that time he said his right shin hurt. I took a look and there was no visible mark or swelling. I began at that point to wonder if, since he does drive a truck and drivers are notorious for getting blood clots, if possibly he could have one in his calf. I looked at it again a little later and his calf had begun to swell slightly. I didn't want to scare him, so I told him if it was not better by morning I wanted to take him to see our doctor. It was then I realized he was burning up with fever. I took it the first time around 9pm on the 9th. It was 103.8 degrees. I am a nurse, so I became concerned and thought he could be getting the flu. At that point the calf pain seemed incidental. Flu causes aches and pains and now he had this temperature to boot. I had to work the next morning as did he. (we do a mail route on Saturdays and we do it together when I am off but today he was going to be doing it alone). When I woke up around 6:30am, he was even hotter. Up to 104.9 degrees. I knew at this point I was not letting him do a 300 mile mail route alone. If he was determined to do it, I was going with him. He always does the driving, but I got in the driver's seat this morning. He didn't argue, so I KNEW he was feeling really bad. Being a truck driver, he also thinks if you sleep more than 5 hours at a time, you are lazy. He slept the entire day after sleeping all night. Something was terribly wrong and I knew it. I took a look around 11am to see if there were any changes to his leg. There was an area about the size of a quarter right in the middle of his shin. It looked like the pink mark you get when you sleep against something wrong. It was extremely hot and very painful to touch. At that point, I was really getting worried because I knew this was not good news. Aside from the fever, he was getting lethargic which is totally against his nature. As I came back into our town (Temple, TX) I knew I was going to take him in to our emergency room. He said all he wanted was to go to bed and sleep. I had to go to the grocery store but wanted to take him to the ER first. As men often do, he refused and I went on to the store. I called him 3 times during the 45 minutes I was shopping. The third time, he was so out of it he didn't even hang up the phone. As soon as I walked in the door I told him we WERE going to the hospital. He tried to argue that he was fine and had the flu. I looked again, less than 24 hours since this all began, and the entire lower half of his leg was bright pink and hotter than fire to the touch. I told him to please get dressed or I would call an ambulance. He finally agreed and so we went into the ER. When I checked him in, I told the triage nurse my concerns and we got in fairly quickly. By now I was afraid it could be an infection in the soft tissue of his leg. No opening on the skin though, so I was told it must be a blood clot. But, what about the fever? They ordered an ultrasound to look for a clot. He was in excruciating pain now and even after three shots of Morphine was sick with pain as they did the ultrasound. No clot. Then they sent in a resident that listened to me. He was admitted immediately and put on Ancef (an IV antibiotic). By the next morning, 105 degree fever and it was up to his knee with a streak about an inch wide climbing past his groin. A group of doctors conferred and decided he had a staph infection. They added Vancomycin (an even more potent IV antibiotic). By noon, the skin was so tight blood vessels were breaking and it measured 30 plus inches at the calf. They began to discuss amputation at the knee, then at the groin. They marked the margins (edges) of the area affected and you could LITERALLY watch the area grow minute by minute outside of their pen markings. Whatever it was, it was out of control. I believe God gives us a special ability to "feel" certain things sometimes. I "felt", in fact I knew, at that point it was NF. No one wanted to hear me. They insisted it was MRSA. Another potentially fatal infection but in my heart I was sure this was Strep A. Not having gone to medical school, I let them convince me it couldn't possibly be NF. My brain told me they are the doctors, they know. My heart still told me NF. Make them listen to you. Well, we are two weeks out of the hospital now. It WAS NF and he is recovering nicely. They finally diagnosed it "officially" two days after he was released. They gave him the IV Vancomycin and IV Ancef for the stay in the hospital then massive doses of Penicillin and Sulfa by mouth afterward. He is still on them. The skin is falling off his leg and it still hurts, but he is going to be okay. I look back and realize that about two months prior to all of this, he had bruised this shin area badly and it had taken almost three weeks to heal. I am sure now that that is when this process all began. I want to say to anyone reading this: no matter how silly it seems at the time, listen to your gut. I am a pediatric nurse and I tell parents every day: If you KNOW something is not right, don't discount your concerns. Keep looking for the answer until someone listens and takes you seriously. My husband survived. I thank God for that. He escaped death and even serious lingering effects. If I had taken no for an answer, things would be very different. God bless everyone who has suffered this horrible fate and the families that have been left behind. Awareness is the key. Early detection is the cure. Follow your heart. Thank you for allowing me to share our story. Keep the faith, and remember this all happened in a span of 24 hours from no fever to life or death. Be strong.