Catena Rodgers

Hello, My name is Catena Rodgers and I live in Sacramento, California. It has been eleven years since I was treated for necrotizing fasciitis. I have visited this site many times and have wanted to share my story, but I could never come to grips with writing it. Well I finally did it. It may be too long, but I couldn't figure out how to write it any other way. Thank you, Catena Rodgers It was a warm summer evening in June of 1998 when I decided to take my three-year old son and six year-old stepson to McDonalds. On our way, I was suddenly struck with indescribable, immense pain in my right leg. The pain was so excruciating that the only thing I could do was pull over and scream for someone to help. The neighborhood was quiet and it seemed as if everyone was in for the night. No one heard me! I didn't have any other choice, but to force myself to start the car and drive back to my stepsons' house. When I pulled in front of his house, his mother bolted through the door when she heard my screams and helped me inside. My pants began to feel as if they were choking my leg. I had to struggle to get them off and when I did I was shocked at the appearance of my leg. My leg was black and blue from my mid thigh to below my knee and it was three times the size of my left. I knew this was a serious matter and I needed to seek medical attention. However, what I didn't know was that this night was the beginning of the most devastating and painful experience of my lifetime. I arrived at the emergency room approximately an hour later. The emergency room was crowded with people vomiting, sniffling, and coughing. I knew I would be enduring a lengthily wait. After six hours of waiting while moaning and groaning in pain, the triage nurse finally called my name. She examined me and asked me what happened. I told my story for the first time and little did I know I would be telling my story hundreds of more times over the course of a lifetime. I told her I had been in a minor car accident where I had been hit between my car and another at a car wash earlier in the day. It was nothing serious, so I thought. She then took me to a small room in the corner of the emergency room where I had to wait longer. I don't remember much after that (I had passed out), but I do remember waking up feeling disoriented, confused, and still in excruciating pain. The nurse was there and she told me that I had almost stopped breathing after she had injected me with Demerol. She had to reverse the effects with another drug. The doctor came in shortly afterwards, diagnosed me with a contusion which is basically a bruise, ordered Vicoden that could be picked up the following day, and discharged me home. I couldn't believe my ears. How could I just have a bruise? How were they going to send me home after I almost stopped breathing? Well, what could I do? "Nothing," I thought. My mother arrived soon afterwards and took me home. The following day I wasn't any better. In fact, my condition had worsened. My leg was almost completely black with red streaks surrounding the blackened, charred looking area. It burned like somebody had set it on fire. My heart was racing fiercely. I was overwhelmed with fright that my life was in jeopardy. The feeling of helplessness was accelerating with every passing moment. I decided to return to the hospital and pick up my prescription in hopes that the pain medication would make me better. However, when I got to the hospital, I knew it would take much more than pain medication to help me. I could barely walk. I had sweat dripping from my face, my clothes were soaked from perspiration, I was gasping for air, and now I was sure I was dying. An older gentleman noticed that I was struggling, got me a wheel chair and wheeled me inside. My mouth was dry, and I had the thirst of a worker laboring in 110 degree weather. I went to the cafeteria in hopes of quenching my thirst. However, after picking up a fruit juice and wheeling myself up to the cashier, I began to see stars. I also began to have an uncontrollable seizure. Then, I briefly lost my breath and urine soiled my pants. This episode alerted the emergency department and I was transferred to a room where they would "monitor me." My vital signs were dangerously out of range. I had a pulse rate of 225, a 102 temperature, a blood pressure of 60/40, and a white blood cell count of 21,000. The intense throbbing in my leg was creating pain worse than the contractions I had endured with the birth of my son. I glanced down and looked at my leg and noticed something strange. There was a mushy area around my knee about the size of a half dollar and it was as black as dirty engine oil. About this time I had five resident doctors come in and examine me. They all had strange, unsettling expressions on their faces that I couldn't quite figure out. They left the room for a few moments and then one returned. He told me I was being discharged. I was utterly shocked and began screaming and yelling at him. This is not normal! I am not O.K! I am going to die if you send me home! When I called my mom and told her what was happening, I was in disbelief when she said, "Catena, doctors know best. Stop being a hypochondriac!" She came and picked me up, took me home, and helped get me into bed. She left a glass of water and a bottle of Motrin by my side. I awoke the next morning barely able to move. The first thing I did was look at my leg. "Oh my God," I said to myself. It looked dead. There were areas on my knee and on my thigh that looked like rotten plums that had fallen from a tree. I was burning, hot and lethargic. The circumstances which I had encountered the last two days had literally exhausted me both physically and emotionally. All I could do was lie in bed and sob. I was outraged at both my mother for leaving me alone and the doctors for sending me home. I felt like a wounded animal abandoned on the freeway and left to die. The phone was in the kitchen and I desperately needed to call my sister who's a registered nurse. I knew that if I had any hope, it was with her. I managed to maneuver myself from the bed to the floor. I was terrified at this point and it took all of my strength to scoot myself down the hallway almost like a soldier in a battle field. After about twenty minutes of struggling down the hallway, I finally reached the phone. I called my sister and told her about the last few days. She told me to stay where I was, and she would be there in a few minutes. When my sister got to my house, she became just as terrified as I was. She told me, "We have to go now or you're not going to make it." I remember her driving erratically at about sixty miles an hour down Fair Oaks Blvd. while I was screaming in pain. She drove me up to the front entrance of the emergency room. A nurse came running outside with a wheelchair when she saw me trying to get out of the car. She wheeled me inside and transferred me on to a gurney. I remember seeing stars again, losing my breath, and being in a complete state of darkness. I had stopped breathing and my heart ceased beating. I awoke after extensive resuscitation to a room full of nurses and doctors in a state of frenzy. The head of my bed was leaning towards the floor, and a doctor was instructing me to stay still while he made a small incision in my neck to insert a central line into my heart. Then the shock: A nurse had taken a red sharpie pen and circled the large black and red area on my leg while she was talking on the phone. "Positive for Necrotizing Fasciitis," she said. "What's that ?" I asked. She responded, "Flesh eating bacteria." She explained to me that my leg was severely infected with bacteria, my life was at risk, and I may need to have my leg amputated. Within seconds I was being rushed upstairs to surgery. The last words I remember saying were, "Please don't take my leg!" The nurse responded, "We will do everything we can, but you need to worry about your life and not your leg." I awoke from a medication induced coma four days later. I felt groggy, but I was completely aware of where I was, yet unaware of what had happened to me. So many emotions overcame me at that moment: fear, anger, frustration, nervousness, and disgust. I was intubated on life support and was connected to many different machines and monitors by tubes and wires. My first reaction was to wiggle my toes in hopes that my leg was still intact. I felt my toes and thought, "Thank God I still have my leg." My family was by my side and the doctor had just walked in the door. I was so angry and disgusted with my mother that I could barely stand to look at her. They told me I was in critical condition and that part of the flesh from my leg had been removed. "What?" I thought. I looked down at my leg; my heart sank, and tears began to run down my face. This was the most devastating day of my life! My leg was bandaged and half gone. I wanted to scream and yell in disbelief. I wanted to cuss the doctors out and my mother too! Nobody listened to me during the last few days. It was all their fault. I remained in the hospital for three more weeks and during that time I had to suffer through painful dressing changes, which required nurses to "scrub" my open flesh, skin grafting, and enough pain to last a lifetime. I went home on July 3, 1998, confined to a wheelchair- -a physical and emotional wreck. For the many days, months, and years after this painful and devastating experience, I not only had to recover physically, but more so emotionally. I now identified myself through my new physical features. I was distorted, disfigured, and I was some type of freak. I felt I was no longer a woman, for women are beautiful and I am not that. I was someone I did not know and did not like. When I looked in the mirror, I only saw half of me, the left side. I struggled on a daily basis with getting dressed. I couldn't wear shorts or skirts for I couldn't stand the sight of myself and I also knew that people would be staring and whispering behind my back. Nothing fit right, now. Pant legs were either baggy on my right leg or tight on my left. I would cry and scream in frustration with every different pair of pants I tried on. Getting dressed was such a traumatic event that many days I isolated myself inside the house and didn't go anywhere. I replayed the whole experience over and over again while thinking to myself, "Why me? Why didn't the doctors listen? My own mother didn't even listen! This didn't have to happen!" My life could never be repaired, and with that fact, I wished I was dead. In September of 2000, I settled a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital with the help of an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice cases. My lawsuit proved that the doctors were grossly negligent and the seriousness of my condition was acknowledged. I also received extensive psychiatric treatment for my emotional difficulties, and I can honestly say I have recovered ninety-nine percent. I no longer wish that I was dead nor do I view myself through my physical features. I have learned that true beauty is within oneself and with this belief I see myself as being a strong and beautiful woman. I am a survivor and a true miracle.