Cheryl Lee

Hi, my name is Cheryl Lee and I live on the west coast of Florida. While searching the internet for information on necrotizing fasciitis, I came across this web site and began reading the survival stories. For those of you who have shared your story I thank you for the inspiration it brings me. During the week of August 6-10, 2007 I was not feeling well and thought I was battling a sinus infection. I take coumadin and was trying to "get thru" without the use of antibiotics. On the evening of August 11, 2007 I went with my best friend, Grace, to Ft. Myers (about an hour and a half from my home) for an evening of fun and playing slot machines. Around 7 p.m. my left arm was itching and we stopped at a pharmacy for anti itch medication. When applying the medication to my left arm I did not notice anything unusual, no cuts, scrapes, breaks in the skin, etc. We went back to playing the slots until about 9 p.m. At that time I told Grace I wasn't feeling well and asked if we could go home early. She readily agreed and while she drove back I laid down in the back seat of her car. We arrived back around 11 p.m. I got into my car intending to drive home. Grace asked if I wanted her to drive me home but I said that I thought I would be ok. I remember starting the drive home but have no memory of actually driving home until about the second or third day in ICU. I must rely on the word of my friends, family and hospital records for what happened next. Grace said she called me at home around 11:30 p.m. to see how I was doing. I told her I was still not feeling well and was just going to bed. Unlike many of the stories I have read on this site I had no pain, I just didn't feel well. During the next sixteen hours that followed I have no idea what happened. Grace normally never drives her car on Sunday but she was taking care of her daughter's dog and on August 12th decided to take her to the park for a walk. While loading the dog into the car Grace found my wallet and thought it was strange that I had not called looking for it. She subsequently made 5 calls to my home and cell phones with no response from me. After the 5th call she told her husband that she felt something was wrong and was going to check on me. She came to my home, knew I was inside, but got no response to door bell rings and beating on the windows. After getting inside my home Grace states she found me laying half on and half off my bed. My eyes were wide open and fixated on the ceiling. I did not answer to her voice. She said my left upper arm was the size of a football and looked as if it had exploded and there was blood all over my bed. 911 was called and EMT's rushed me to the emergency room. Now at the ER and fighting for my life, my temperature was 104 and my heart rate was through the roof. The infection was continuing to eat away at my left upper arm. My sister was told to call the rest of the family as they did not expect me to make it. God, however, was watching over me and thankfully the doctors were able to stabilize me enough to do surgery. My family and friends were warned though that I might not survive the surgery and that amputation of my left arm was a possibility. Thankfully the surgeon felt he was able to cut out all of the infection but said he would not know for sure for several days. I spent a total of 36 hours in the ER due to a shortage of beds in ICU. Finally, after shuffling patients, a space was made available for me. Once in ICU a wound vac was applied to my left arm. It took several days before I was coherent and speaking intelligently. I still have no memory of the time between getting in my car at 11 p.m. on Saturday night and the second or third day in ICU. I anxiously awaited word on whether amputation would be necessary. Those were some mighty anxious days waiting to hear. Thankfully I can report that I still have a fully functioning left arm although half of my upper left is gone. After four days I left ICU and then spent the next five weeks in the Progressive ICU and then two weeks in a rehab facility. On 9/29 I was able to come home. What a day! I go daily to the infusion center for an IV of vancomycin. While there I see the Infectious Disease doctor 2-3 times a week. Three days a week the wound vac dressing is changed. I have been seeing the plastic surgeon weekly awaiting word from him that he is able to do the skin graft surgery. After hearing "we're not quite there yet", on Halloween of all days he says "Cheryl, I think we are finally there!" I am scheduled to have skin graft surgery on 11/8 and am hopeful that one surgery will be sufficient. But I know it could be more. UPDATE 11/27/2007 I didn't have the skin graft surgery on 11/8 due to an abnormal chest xray which occurred during pre op testing. The radiologist wanted to check the current xray against previous ones. That took nearly two weeks to occur. And then he said he wanted another one done. Thankfully the new one came out clear and I have been rescheduled for surgery on 12/6. NF is a horrible condition and those of us who have had it know the devastating effect it has had on our lives. But it also opened my eyes to what is around me and how lucky I am to be alive and to have the love and support of so many friends and family. Priorities are also different. I used to be so consumed with my career and work was a first priority. Now I take life one day at a time, thankful for each and every new day. Words of wisdom? When your best friend is concerned enough to call and say to you, "Do you want me to take you to the hospital", let them!