Lori Drover

If someone told me before March 25, 2003, that I would contract the flesh eating disease, my first reaction would probably be to laugh and automatically categorize it with death. Even nowadays with so much going on and you hear of so many people coming down with SARS and AIDS, you don't hear a lot about flesh eating disease, and if you do hear a story through either the media or from another person, the patient usually ends up with limbs having to be amputated to stop the disease from spreading, or the disease takes their life. With me, thankfully, even though I will have two scars for the rest of my life, I am one of the lucky ones. It all started March 24. I had to work at 6am to 2pm. Usually when I came home I had a nap for an hour or so, and when I wasn't up for supper, mom came down to check on me. When she woke me up, my lower left side was in so much pain, I thought I had a stitch or slept the wrong way or something and blew it off. I ate supper, and still felt drowsy so went back down in my room and asked mom to check on me in a bit. When she did, she noticed I was red in the face and took my temperature; it was 103.4 Fahrenheit, and since my side was still hurting she took me to St. Claire's. The emergency room was packed and the nurse said it probably would be a while, so figuring I just had the flu I decided I would wait till the next morning and go see my family doctor. So, I went home and went to bed. The next morning, March 25, would be a day I will never forget. Mom woke me up so I could get ready to go to the doctor but I couldn't move. It was like someone was continuously punching my left side/leg area. With the help of my mom, it took me almost 30 minutes just to get upstairs and reach the couch. Once there, I laid there and couldn't move. I just didn't have the energy to brush my teeth and comb my hair, and the pain was getting progressively worse. My parents called and told my doctor how sick I was and he said to take me to the hospital. I tried once again to get up to get ready and I couldn't so my parents figured there was no way there were getting me to the hospital and they called an ambulance. When the paramedics came in my house and saw me on the couch, they couldn't believe how pale and sick looking I was. I told them my symptoms and they took me in the ambulance and gave me an IV, took my blood pressure, etc. and brought me to the hospital. My dad went with me in the ambulance and when I arrived at the hospital, my mom and brother were there waiting. The paramedics brought me to a big open room with a few beds with curtains surrounding them and a nurses desk in the middle. By this time, besides being in so much pain and getting sicker, I was scared out of my wits. I was never in an ambulance and I had all these doctors and nurses coming around me and none of them could tell me exactly what was wrong with me and honestly, I just thought it was a bad flu, nothing serious. They took so many bottles of blood every hour; little bottles I was used to when I had gotten blood work done before, then they took these huge bottles of blood that were the size of spice jars to culture my blood and test my complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry, creatine phosphokinase (CPK), and C-reactive protein. At one point, they put this metal wire thing through my wrist and it went under my skin and wrapped around to the other side to get some type of sample to do a test, I had I think two X-Rays, and still after all this, no one could tell me what was wrong. They called in all kinds of specialists and they all too were puzzled, I had symptoms for a lot of things, but nothing concrete to diagnosis me. When they got back a few blood results, it continuously showed my white cell count being extremely high, so at that point they came to the conclusion I had an infection and called in an infectious disease specialist. He, along with a few other doctors said I should have exploratory surgery because every time they got my blood results back, my white cell count was higher, and they could tell I was going downhill fast. My fever was higher and my left leg swollen and hot to touch, and the pain worse than ever. When they told me I had to have surgery, I panicked. I never had surgery before and I still didn't think I was sick enough but my parents were there and told me it was for my best and it wouldn't be long, they just had to check and make sure. My last memory was asking my parents what time it was, dad saying 9pm, then entering a room and seeing a nurse. She told me they were going to give me something to put me to sleep and that she would be with me the whole time. I asked my parents to stay with me until I went into the operating room. A few minutes went by and the nurse had to take me into another room. I said bye to my parents and then saw these bright lights and telling the nurse I wasn't asleep yet. Then, I woke up. I don't really remember actually when I first came to. My parents said I was awake since a bit after the surgery when they put me in recovery, but the first day awake I remember is April 2 - 8 days after surgery. Its still a bit foggy; I remember seeing both my parents on the right side of me next to the window with the window ledge filled with bouquets of flowers and two balloons floating close to the ceiling. A nurse came in and said she had to clean my stitches and change the dressings. I was like, "What the hell are you talking about?". I then remembered having to have surgery, but no mention of stitches or holes. She lifted up my gown and I think I went into shock. I had 17 staples under my belly button going down to my abdomen and then a hole my fist could fit comfortably in, in my lower left side/groin area. That's when I guess my parents realized I had no recollection whatsoever of what I had went through. I thought it was like a day or so after I had arrived at the hospital and then they told me I had been in for eight days - eight days I could not remember! Mom started to tell me then what had happened. I knew I had gone for surgery around 9pm. They cut me open where the pain was in my side. When they did, they found out what I had; Necrotizing Fasciitis, more commonly know as flesh-eating disease. They could actually see the infection eating away at the tissue as soon as the air hit it. They drained over a pint of infection out there and made another incision under my belly button to see if it had spread there, and thankfully it had not, so they stapled that one up. They thought they had got all the infection drained, but didn't want to take the chance of closing it up and me having to go back into surgery, because they didn't think I would survive it. So, then they sent me to recovery when my blood pressure dropped dangerously low, so instead of sending me to a room, I went to ICU. Because they had given me so many antibiotics in the emerge when I first arrived, I had a reaction to the medication they were giving me to get my blood pressure up. My parents told me I had ripped out my IV's and was acting totally out of control; that is not like me. They had to put the IV's in my groin area so I couldn't reach them. At one point, I was so ill and seemed to be getting worse, the doctors asked my parents, that if it came down to it, would they want me to go on life support. I think that's what scared my parents the most. The one thing I do remember about ICU is seeing a blue thing coming towards my mouth. I told my parents and they said that it probably was when the nurses were wetting my lips with a blue stick with a white top, kind of like a q-tip to keep my lips wet where I wasn't allowed to eat or drink. After six days in ICU, my blood pressure was up enough for me to go up to the floor. And two days later, is what I remember. So, basically, I only remember my last two days in hospital, and those two days I think I was in shock of what I had went through. When I was allowed to go home though. I still had the stitches and the hole in my side so I wasn't allowed to do a thing - I was still very sick and weak. Normally, a public health nurse would come in when needed to change my bandages but because of my dad's insurance, I got a private nurse to come in from the VON (Victoria Order of Nurses). The stitches were taken out a day after me coming home but the area still needed to be cleaned and where the surgery was still open, it had to fill itself in because they took out all the dead tissue and infection. Sandy, my nurse, came in twice a day to change the bandages. Whenever she noticed a bit filling in, she would add less gauze, until July 24, when was the last day she came in; almost exactly four months after my surgery and one day before my 21st birthday (at the cost of over $9,000.00). After a few months of being home, basically doing nothing, I was allowed to go back to work, starting off at 3 hour shifts, making my way up to 6 hours; I never thought I would be so happy to go back to work. Just being able to do the little things that I normally would take advantage of like driving, going out with my friends and not having to be home at a certain time, even something simple as taking a bath; I wasn't supposed to sit in the bath because of where the surgery was so low they didn't want any water getting in it. While at the hospital, I developed Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which was another downfall in my whole ordeal. I have been anemic for a few years now and have to get iron shots every two weeks, so I knew my immune system was very low and having MRSA makes it very difficult to treat infections that normal healthy people could fight off. In August of the same year, I came down with similar symptoms and didn't want to take any chances so I went to the hospital. Again, I was extremely sick; pain in my left side but this time further down my leg, fever, etc., but I had some sort of rash. First they thought I had measles because the rash was patchy, but eventually ruled that out. This time, I think the pain was worse though. I couldn't even put my foot flat to the floor, it took me at least 15 minutes just to walk a few feet to the bathroom with the help of two people; one on each arm holding me up. I won't go into the whole long story of what happened, but to sum it up I was diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis. Just my luck. It has been almost a year since my last hospital visit, I'm on a roll! I still have to watch out for any slight sign of infection because within hours I could become very sick and even die. Like a lot of people I wasn't very informed on Necrotizing Fasciitis. I since have done a lot of research on it and asked a lot more questions to my family doctor to try to educate myself and understand the disease. The reason they never considered flesh eating disease is because I never had the main symptoms that pointed towards flesh eating disease - a cut, discoloration, anything visible - I learned after this was because my infection was deep in the tissue so the signs of inflammation (red, swollen, hot to touch) did not develop right away. Either way I look at it, I'm just glad to be one of the lucky ones that didn't have to lose a limb or die, even with my huge scar and the 'dent' from where they drained the infection, I am thankful to be alive.