Chris Martin

On a Thursday in 1998, at the age of 24, I was working on a construction job in Santa Maria, Ca. I had taken the job 3 months earlier and my wife and 10 month old daughter had just moved down from our old home in Oregon to live with me the weekend before. We where living in a small town called Atascadero with no family and only one other couple as friends. Other than that we knew no one. While getting into one of the work trucks, I felt a pain in my right chest muscle just like a slightly pulled muscle. (To fully understand my personal fight with NF you need to know that my right arm has what is called Erb's Palsey. When I was born, I was stuck in the birth canal and the doctor pulled on my head to get me out. This caused nerve damage going down to my right arm. Thus my right arm is very week and has only about 50% of the strength and mobility of a fully functioning arm. Also I can not feel pain in certain areas of my hand and thumb. Due to the lack of pain, I started picking at my skin when I was young. To this day I still have that habit, It has never caused me any problems but I usually have an open cut on my hand from this habit.) I didn't pay much attention to it until later that night. Back at our apartment, Tracey (my wife) wanted me to help unpack some furniture form the move. I tried helping put together some furniture but just couldn't due to the increasing in pain. I went to bed without eating dinner and by the next morning (6 am) I was asking Tracey to take me to the ER. At the ER I was told it was a pulled muscle and they gave me vicodin and sent me home. All day Friday and Saturday, I was in the worst pain ever. I tried having Tracey help me lay down, when that did nothing for the pain, I would have her help me sit up. No matter what position I was in, nothing helped. The vicodin didn't even start to help. At this point, I know now that I wasn't thinking straight. If I was it seems I should have realized this was not a pulled muscle. On Sunday morning, I started having problems breathing. I told Tracey to cut my t-shirt off since I could not lift my arm due to the pain. She then called our friends to babysit our daughter (Alisha) so she could take me back to the ER. As I walked to the car my friend took one look at me a said- "man you look like crap". As Tracey pulled up to the ER, I got out of the car and walked into the ER by myself (Tracey was parking). I went to the front desk and collapsed onto it. I remember them bring a gurney out for me. My memory of the ER is sketchy, I was lying there and could see the doctors looking at my x-rays on the lighted board that the use. (I don't remember getting the xrays). I also remember them telling my wife that they did not know what was wrong with me and that it was interesting (one of there theories was an allergic reaction to the vicodin since I took 9 pills within about 4 hours that morning for the pain). I also remember them saying that I could die. The weird thing is that by this time, I didn't really have a grasp on reality so that comment by the doctor didn't really bother me. The last thing I remember was them giving me a chest tube and screaming from the pain. At this point, I was sent to the ICU. There I was put on high levels of oxygen. I was told that when someone is put on oxygen like this, they loss there memory for that period of time. They still did not know what was wrong with me. Tracey then called my dad who lived 10 hours away. He had just gotten home from helping us move. She told him that I was sick and might die and he needed to come back down to see me. He hopped in the car and drove right back down, thinking that she was over reacting. Come Monday morning they finally figured out it was NF and immediately sent me to surgery. It had gotten into my system from one of the cuts on my thumb and logged into my chest. Tracey had went home to nurse Alisha when she got the call about the surgery. One funny side note was that even though I have no memory of this at all, I found the permission form for the surgery with my signature on it. Around this same time, word got out to our family what was going on. At ton of family came to see me and help out Tracey while this was going on. My step father-in-law was a pathologist at a hospital in NM. He later joked with me, that he was glad he brought his black suit with him, since he was sure there was going to be a funeral. Also the TV show Guinness book of World Records hosted by Dean Cain had just done a story on the "worst bacteria on earth" that some of my family saw about 2 weeks before I got sick. This helped with create even more of a grim outlook for me. It will be 10 more days until I "wake up" and was fully coherent, but I do have a few memories/hallucinations from that time period. I remember seeing my dad sitting in the corner of the room, crying. I also remember looking at the clock on the wall thinking to myself "Now is the time I am going to die." I also had a hallucination (I think due to the morphine but not sure) that I was Amsterdam and they where going to cut my leg off and replace it with a cow leg. I remember trying to escape and finally giving up. In the real world, I had broke out of my restraints (I was tied down to the hospital bed) and pulled out my breathing tube. It took several nurses to get me tied up again. Once I came to alot of the nurses came up to me and told me how lucky I was to be alive. With it being such a small hospital, it seemed like everyone knew about me and my family. One thing a nurse told me that I will always remember is that older people get sick and younger people get injured, when that is reversed it really hits everyone hard. When I came to it was a big emotional hit knowing that I almost died. I took months for me to get over the fact that I was that close to death. The end result was that I have 13 scars and a great story to tell. Other then that I have no long term damage. This might sound weird but in a way I am thankful I went thru this. It helps put life into prospective.