Pam Kuchta

My name is Pam Kuchta. I am 54 and I am a survivor of Necrotizing Fasciitis. I contracted it in March of 2005. It all started with my having flu-like symptoms-fever, headache, dizziness, and unbearable pain in my groin from what I thought was a cyst or a boil. I had taken a few days off work and was getting ready to go back to my night managers job at a local fast food restaurant. I was so weak I could hardly walk to the car, nor was I able to sit in the car without so much pain. This I later read was the main NF symptom-uncharacteristic pain and weakness...My doctor told my family later that at the time, I was going into a coma, and only had hours to live! My live in boyfriend of six years, Chris, was driving me to work and heading to see his mom, in a town an hour away. I went into the store and almost collapsed! I asked to go back home then, and the boss said that I had to either work or go to the hospital to get a doctor's note or I would be fired if I left! I know it sounds mean-but the man saved my life by insisting I go to the ER! (thank you, Frank!) Someone ran after Chris to get him to take me to the ER. We went to Anderson (SC) Area Medical Center-ANMED. All I remember is getting there, the pain in my butt, and being wheeled back to an exam room...the rest is a blur, but I was later told bits and pieces of what happened next. The ER Dr called my two sisters (one in Chicago, and one in Palm Beach) and said that I was dying and to come right away to plan my funeral and take my then 18 year old son, John, home with one of them. I was given a 3% chance to live, because my NF was so advanced. I was transferred to Greenville Memorial Hospital in an induced coma to have the surgery because I was a high risk patient-I had a damaged heart muscle, and couldn't have anesthesia. At GMH I was given a saddle block to deaden the pain, but I was out of it anyway. I was imagining that I was flying with angels-seeing people and places in my past-just flying everywhere-through parking lots, down to Florida...I was so out of it-then I felt something pushing me away from the light...back to consciousness. I finally woke up in the GMH ICU unit-bleeding from my backside and in so much pain...when the aides had to change my underpads they rolled me from side to side-and it was unbearable! I finally got a morphine pump, but I still hurt. Chris, his mom, his sister and her boyfriend all tried to tell me the worst was over and I was going to live, but I still didn't know what had gone on or what was wrong with me...it was almost two weeks later! My sisters and son had gone also. I was out of ICU and into a room when I overheard someone say that I was homeless! They thought I was a hooker who had been beaten up! (they were very mean and hurtful) I told someone and all of a sudden their attitudes changed. I had no one in my family to stick up for me. I felt so alone...a dog shouldn't be treated like that! Finally Chris told me what had happened, that the pimple turned to gangrene and I lost a huge chunk of my right buttock and anal sphincter, plus back muscles. But...I was alive and going to pull through! I was later moved to Greenville Hospital's long term facility-LTAC-to start healing and saline lavage. Salt water in an open,gaping wound! My son and a sister came back to see me for a few days, and they started the long process of getting me on disability, and paying for the astronomical bills. They couldn't keep me long though and I was shipped out to Oakmont Rehab-a nursing home. (My home was broken into and all my things were stolen-so I was really homeless after all-by the way, Chris couldn't take it, so after six years he left me...and there was nowhere to send me to recover but Oakmont-no one else would take me! I was there at Oakmont, flat on my stomach, with a wound vac to my butt for months until they could find a surgeon to close my wound with a split thickness skin graft from the back of my right thigh. I had no sphincter muscle, so I was incontinent of bowel, which I still am today. There was talk of doing a colostomy, but since I couldn't have anesthesia-it was ruled out.I had a catheter in my bladder for nine months(!!) so I have almost no control of that either... Through this all I have found the best friends a person could ever want~my friend, Joanne, and her husband Rick. They smuggled food into the rehab, and even brought me a knife to cut my fruit! Jo even helped to get my son back from Florida! When I was healed enough I began rehab. The team would position themselves in front, in back, and on both sides of me and pull me to a sitting position-my back wasn't strong enough to hold me up; then they sat me on the side of the bed. Weeks later I had to learn to stand again, then to use a wheel chair, then go go to the therapy room...baby steps all the way...wheel chair-walker-quad cane-straight cane-steps in the parallel bars-throwing and catching a ball-walking on a mat-up and down stairs-pedaling and weight lifting...wanting so desperately to be 'normal' again. I had to give up driving too...you can't drive if you can't use the legs to stop, (besides Chris wrecked my car while I was in the hospital) But...It's been two years this March and I am happy to say that I have finally graduated to not using my cane most places, and I can almost walk straight now...and no one can see the scars of my 'shark bitten' butt unless I am undressed, or the ones in my head...that will never get better... It's impossible to go through something like this without it affecting your mind somewhat. My family and friends don't want to talk about it-they say it's over-go on with your life-but it isn't that easy. I am reminded every time I try to sit, or climb stairs, or wish I could go to work again (I am on permanent disability), or try to put on socks, or tie my shoes-get dressed without a 'reacher'-or have to wear a diaper-or try to cook a meal without having to sit down every so often to rest my back. Sorry this is so long, but I normally don't have a chance to talk about this, and I did leave things out, believe it or not! I do have a kinder-gentler approach to life now though. I don't hold a grudge, don't take things for granted, I appreciate miracles and my life, and my friends, and even my enemies! Thanks for letting me share~Please write if you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to hear your story~it helps to talk about it.