Molly Williams

My dreadful experience happed December 8, 1999 following a minor oral surgery to remove excess bone growth on my upper right gum. During this surgery the surgeon cut the inside tissue of my right cheek. I have a small mouth and accidental cuts are common during surgery. My daughter, Nanette, picked me up following the morning surgery. While looking into my mouth she noted the cut and told me it was near my lip. I wasn't concerned, I was feeling great. We went shopping for an hour, I had some soup for lunch. Then suddenly I felt hot, miserable, and ached. I went home to bed. The cervicofacial necrotizing fasciitis had began. I took my pain medication, it wasn't helping. My husband became real concerned with the amount of swelling we were seeing, the pain I was in, and he called the Doctor. He recommend I double up on the pain medication. We did this, it didn't help. All I can share with you is that this pain presents itself like no other, worse than the pain of childbirth. Dec. 9th, early morning I went by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital emergency room. They were very caring, but advised me to see my doctor the next morning. During the time I was there, my face had swollen more and spread to my left eye, my tissue was getting pinker. The attending physician had called my doctor, unfortunately, he told him I should be in pain, since I had dental surgery. I begged them to let me stay. They sent me home with more narcotics to take to ease the pain. Dec. 10th I went to see the dental doctor. He examined my mouth and saw the infection was not due to the corrective surgery and sent me to our near by hospital here in Kitsap County. The CT scan of my face, neck and upper chest showed soft tissue swelling in the SQ fat and along the external muscle bellies. Later that night the doctor noted necrotic tissue. Still no debriding of my face was started. My husband could see how my face was so discolored and blisters were appearing. I looked terrible. I told him he better take a picture of me for my boss, Don. I worked for him as his transportation supervisor and he needed me there every day. Thank goodness for that picture and the ones he took daily as my condition worsened. This form of NF has a 60% mortality rate. On Dec. 13th the doctors assessment became "necrotizing fasciitis". I had black skin on my upper lip, my right cheek and lower left lip. My right eye was so swollen it had split open, my left eye so bad I could barely see. I looked so swollen around my face I was becoming un-recognize able. I was put into the ICU, the nurses started coming in with masks on, my room was quarentined. I was scared to death. The doctor cut off the black tissue over my eye, removing my eyelid and some tissue on my lip. Not nearly what needed to be done. I was beet red down my chest by this time. Dec. 15th...I should have died by now, I am a miracle case. On this day I was finally transferred to Harborview medical center. After a quick examination the Surgeon told my husband," I am sorry it has come to this, your wife may die. This team of medical staff saved my life. But, I was debrided from my right eye, my entire cheek, some of my nose, half of my right upper and lower lip, down my chest to 1/4 inch of my sternum. If this infection, which was progressing fast, would of entered my sternum I would have died. My recovery took many surgeries. I was in the ICU fighting for my life. They needed to take muscle and skin from my body to attempt to fill my cheek area with. My right trapezius muscle had been debrided, gone. So they then cut me open from the top of my back right side trapezius down to my lower dorsi muscle, only to find that the veins would not match up. That was sewn up. They then went to my back left side and removed my entire trapezius, this was attached to my face. It lasted two days and died. More debriding. They attached my intercostal muscle from under my right breast and brought it up my neck to operate that movement. It worked. The next attempt of a flap attachment was removing my right side stomach muscle, and attaching it to my face. It also failed, but I had a right side tummy tuck. All through out this my surgeon, Dr. Stanley was marvelous. Daily he saw me and encouraged me. After each surgery he was there beside me. But still my face was skinned to the bone. Tissue was attempting to grow in. We found success by removing half of my rear scalp and pulling it with its blood supply attached over my right ear onto my cheek. For five months I looked terrible. You could see the hair from the back of my head growing on the face and at that time nothing could be done about it. This procedure worked. I had seven large skin grafts taken from my legs to cover the other open areas. Having the area where skin grafts are taken from is terribly painful while it heals. I have had 27 surgeries, with this Dr. Stanley. He saved my life, he never gave up on me. I had a trach put in early on and was stomach fed for 11 months. I was off work for a year and four months. The school district held my job for me. I am grateful to them also, it gave me drive to heal and survive this ordeal. I worked for three years and have now retired. The constant need to take nerve and pain medicine, plus do my job well to keep kids safe, really took my energy away. By retiring I now have time to concentrate on me, on getting my endurance back, on renewing friendships I didn't have time for. Spending time with my grandchildren and husband, and be ever thankful for the prayers that were said for me, from my bus drivers, friends and many church families. Thank you God for being with me and helping me to survive and be my regular positive self through all of this. It is unfortunate that emergency room doctors and many physicians have trouble identifying this disease. I have a chronicle of early picture I would gladly e-mail to any physicians the pictures that my husband took. It would help them to see the early stages and learn from my experience.