It has been an incredible journey this past year, full of dark valleys and unknown roads. I share it with you for the Glory of God who is ever faithful! It all began the morning of December 19, 2006. Severe pain prevented standing on my right leg, so I crawled on the floor from room to room. The following day (Dec. 20th) a friend drove for two hours on icy roads in a winter storm to take me to the doctors then his wife took me to the hospital Emergency Room and stayed with me. An Ultrasound, CAT Scan and MRI were done. My temperature rose to 103 F. and the unbearable pain was eased only slightly by IV morphine. Admission to a hospital room was finally realized just after midnight. For the next 24 hours a combination of 9 types of antibiotics dripped into my arm, and on the second day pneumonia was diagnosed. Time blurred together, each day heralded by the arrival of the³blood sucker² at 4:30 am. A few days later, my veins would not support needles, and my arms looked like pincushions!!
December 23rd my surgeon said the second MRI showed a spread in the infection and he wished to make two small slits for exploratory surgery. (Later I awoke to find my whole leg cut open on both sides!! Two small slits indeed!!) Blood tests from that morning gave a white blood count of 20,000 (normal range being 4.8-10) and CRP (C Reactive Protein measures inflammation in the body) at 280 (normal range is less than 5). That same day, surgery #1 was performed by my surgeon and his father as a team to (quote) "give the best chance possible" and the disease was identified as Necrotizing Fasciitis (also known as flesh-eating bacteria). "The flesh was like mush and had to be scooped out" to quote my surgeon. Coated with antibiotic, the incision was left open to drain, the flesh held together by large basting stitches (remarkably like those on a Christmas turkey), to bere-opened twice for extensive surgeries and debridement on Dec. 24th and 27th. Leg amputation and loss of my life became very real possibilities. Between surgeries in my drug induced state from the self-administered morphine pump, I signed permission for blood transfusions, but did not need them. Friends and people I didn¹t even know prayed for a miracle.
Dec. 29th Daily Physical Therapy began with tiny baby steps, a walker and PAIN!! (Pump that morphine!!) Jan. 1, 2007 ~ Hospital discharge day!! I pondered the future. A common Indian expression in times of deep inner-conflict of not knowing which way to go is, "He/She is walking with a HEAVY FOOT these days" and mentally it was so!! Right outside my hospital window a bald eagle circled, immediately reminding me of God¹s promise in Isaiah 40:31 ~ "They that wait upon the Lord SHALL renew their strength.They shall mount up on wings like eagles. They SHALL RUN and not be weary,they SHALL WALK and not faint". Unable to walk, let alone run, I claimed that promise.
Instead of discharging to the Rehab unit of a nursing facility, Kathy, a dear nurse friend opened her home to me. She helped me reposition in bed, (even in the middle of the night), get in and out of chairs, cooked for me,changed my dressings, helped me with bathing and so much more as I gained strength. All the things I took so for granted were monumental to accomplish even after returning home the beginning of March.
Complications developed after the last surgery: foot drop which required a corrective brace worn 24 hrs a day, (in addition to my leg brace), then anon-set of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) - a chronic pain condition,with changes in blood flow, sweating, and swelling in my right foot. Three "Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Blocks" were done ~ injections of a numbing local anesthetic in the spinal area ~ which were not effective and caused much discomfort! The doctor suggested doing a sympathectomy to kill the sympathetic nerves leading to the painful body part. This sounded TOO final for me and NOT an option; I left there for a Rehab clinic where a fabulous physical therapist knew just what to do to teach me to walk again and put me on the road to recovery. She introduced STS (Sympathetic Therapy System), which administered electrical currents to the nerves through my lower leg and foot as well as my arms and hands. Not only did iteradicate my pain, but it re-set my system as it were, and I gradually got well!!! Due to physical limitations, I was unable to return to my employment. But the good news is: I am off narcotics, take NO medication, continue to regain strength daily, can walk without aid of a device, can drive my car, and do all my own self cares and chores with moderation! It is nothing short of a miracle that I am alive and intact with no visual souvenirs on my body other than suture lines.
My surgeon, Dr. David Anderson, is ecstatic about the way my body has recovered. He presented my case to the medical board and said they loved my story which he knows inside out, with all the gruesome details. He gave mea bear hug and wished me a Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday this year. Friends played a major role during my illness and recovery, showing support and love in many ways ~ shoveling snow, caring for me, my home and cat, taking me to medical appointments, physical therapy, church and other places, visiting and telephoning, reading to me, sending cards and praying. Without them, life would have been very bleak indeed.
God did what He promised in Isaiah 40:31 He renews my strength daily ~ He causes me to rise above my disability, I cannot physically run yet, but do not weary of pressing on, and walking has been restored without weakness and feeling faint. He is my healer! The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my victory. Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly. The strong right arm of the LORD has done glorious things! I will not die, but I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:14,15,17