Tommy White

Beginning Thursday, December 9, 2004, I began to notice a pain on my right side under my armpit. In addition, I was experiencing some fever and chills. I visited my doctor right away and he checked my ear, nose and throat as well as took some blood. From a test, I was told I didn't have the flu. As I reflected on my situation, I remembered that I had helped a friend earlier in the week move a couch, and I thought perhaps I pulled a muscle on my right side. On Friday my condition worsened. The right side of my neck had started to ache as well. I was taking some Tylenol and prescribed pain medication for my possible 'pulled muscle.' Nothing seemed to help. I hadn't had sleep for several days and nights. On Saturday the 11th, my condition had continued to worsen. I had continued to be in close contact with my doctor, since I was not getting better. Late that Saturday afternoon I looked in the mirror and noticed a severe swelling in my neck, as well as my side. I called my wife in and she immediately phoned our doctor. He wanted to see me asap. So I went to see him and as I recall, as soon as he examined my neck, his reaction became very serious. I checked into the ER right away, about 6:30pm that night. During the next few hours blood was drawn and a CT scan was administered. By 'chance' someone from radiology happened to be there to read the results, which was unusual, since it was about 9:00pm by then. I was about to be given antibiotics but my doctor checked in at just the last minute to make sure my blood culture had been taken. It hadn't. Otherwise, the cultures would have proved useless. My doctor had deemed this serious enough for me to check into the hospital that night, which I was all in favor of. He had also, 'by chance', run across an Infectious Disease Consultants upstairs. This was unusual as it was closing in on 10:00pm on a Saturday night. One of my heroes, the IDC came up to my room and proceeded to give me a verbal questionnaire, which had to number close to 50 questions. Following the interview he turned to my wife and father-in-law who were with me and said 'This can be ______ or this can be bad.' The following Sunday morning I had the worst pain I can remember. I called my wife and cried because things hadn't gotten better overnight (since I was now on antibiotics) and I was getting discouraged. I don't have much recollection of Sunday through Wednesday. On Monday they identified the infection and gave me about everything in the book. I had a heart monitor put on Sunday night. On the nights of Sunday-Wednesday I experienced awful nightmares and visions and cried out randomly. I called my wife at various times of the day and night, sometimes out of my head. On Tuesday morning I was given an NG tube. My body had begun to shut down. (My understanding is that the infection was in my blood and was causing a toxic condition in my body.) My stomach region had gained 10 lbs and had become hardened. With all the medication they could only manage to keep my fever down to the 101 degree range. The flesh-eating bacteria had attacked my side and was preparing to eat away at my muscle. On Tuesday, upon returning from a test, my wife recalls seeing me and not noticing anything in my eyes. At that point, after gathering what the doctors (my doctor, the IDC, Orthopedic Surgeon and Pulmonary Doctor) had communicated and from what she'd witnessed, it finally dawned on her that I probably wasn't going to survive this attack. Sometime, perhaps late Wednesday the 15th, the tide began to turn and the antibiotics were beginning to turn back the infection. It was strange, as I look back on this experience, that I didn't know it was a fight for my life at the time. Once I got back to my rational thinking, I then realized what everyone else knew. I would be in the hospital until Monday, December 20th. Once my body had turned the tide, I noticed each doctor telling me, in their own words, that it was a close call. That other patients had not been as lucky as I had. In closing, I credit my wife, Jennifer, first and foremost with saving my life. You see, on Friday the 10th, Jennifer took two of my three children to see their pediatrician since they both had bloody noses the night before. They were diagnosed with strep in the nose! My wife told the pediatrician that I was suffering from some illness. The doctor immediately got serious and warned my wife about the possibilities. I'm so grateful for my wife's urgency and awareness. I'm grateful for my IDC, whom we all became so fond of, even before we knew the gravity of the situation. I'm grateful for my orthopedic surgeon, who was brought in for his aggressive nature – to push the discussion on whether to perform surgery. Between he and the IDC, they took such good care of me. I'm grateful for the excellent care I received from the nurses and aids on 5-North at Bergen Mercy, Omaha. I'm grateful that the only apparent damage to my body to date is 1) a small amount of muscle that was infected and 2) a lingering tingle and numbness in both my upper legs, which I hope will go away someday. Finally, for the fervent prayers of the Church worldwide, I'm forever indebted to. Though I survived this vicious infection, I find myself somewhat sobered with the thought that I could have died. And, that others have died. I hope that in the future, doctors will become more aware of this deadly infection.