Liz Sleeper

We live in Portland, OR, and took our daughters, 5 and 9, to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. We arrived in time for dinner March 4, 2005. On Friday morning we woke up and could tell that our 5 year old wasn't feeling well, probably the flu but we went to Disneyland anyway. By midday Laurel was feeling pretty bad so I decided to take her back to the hotel and I ended up carrying her a good distance. By late afternoon, a very small spot on my right shoulder was in excruciating pain. I took some Advil which didn't help and later in the evening, I took Tylenol PM. By 11pm I called a taxi to take me to a hospital leaving my husband and kids at the hotel. We went to three locations before we found an open emergency room. At the emergency room, they were very quick and helpful but just determined that I had "over-stressed" my shoulder carrying my daughter. They gave me an anti-inflammatory shot and some pain medicines and I went back to the hotel. At the hotel I started vomiting and pretty much was sick throughout the night. When my husband woke at 8 am he found me passed out naked on the floor. I had him call 911 and help me dress. When the paramedics arrived they took one look at my sick daughter and me on the floor and said, "Classic case of the flu". Once in the ambulance they were unable to get a blood pressure or pulse reading. I was taken to Western Medical Center, Anaheim. Meanwhile I had sent my family to "the happiest place on earth" so my kids didn't have to spend all day in a scary hospital. In the emergency room I think they still were working on the assumption that I had the flu and tried to fill me with fluids to bring my blood pressure up. It didn't work. Most of Sunday was a blur. I know I had X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs etc. I remember complaining about losing feeling in my hands and toes and watching a red spot spread from the original spot in my shoulder across my chest and down my right arm. Sometime late in the day a wonderful man, Dr. Bina, stopped by. He immediately thought Necrotizing Fasciitis and I could hear him arguing in the hall with another doctor about it. He came in to explain his diagnosis and I told him I thought it a bit extreme and perhaps I should get a second opinion. He said sure but I'd be dead. He called in a sonogram guy who was able to clearly find pockets of bacteria in my chest. I was told they were calling my husband and parents in Texas as I would probably not make it through the night. I said good-bye to my husband and kids and that was the last I remember for the next 4 or 5 days. I had an initial surgery for debridement on Sunday night and another on Monday. I was very fortunate in that the bacteria had done very little damage and I only lost a small portion of pectoral muscle. I remember waking up to Dr. Bina digging into my wrist with a knife. It seems like he did this every day and I think he was checking for hepatitis. Or perhaps it was just one of my many drug induced hallucinations. I had many of them. I was told by another doctor that I was the perfect example of "as close as it gets". They didn't expect me to make it through surgery. When I came to I had a huge wound across my chest and halfway down my right arm. The wound is stuffed with black sponge and then vacuumed out continuously with a "wound vac". For days I assumed the black of the sponge was just part of my open wound. I was conscious and fully respirated for days as every time they tried to remove the respirator, I struggled too hard to breathe. Finally, my respirator came out on Saturday and I was transferred out of ICU on Sunday night. I spent the next week going through extremely painful dressing changes every other day, blood transfusions, trying to get my white blood cell count up and some physical therapy. Late in the week my insurance company started working to get me out of Western Medical Center and get me transferred to one of their hospitals. I only wanted to work with Dr. Bina so he stitched me up with 100s of stitches and I checked out of the hospital on Monday, two weeks after having been admitted, and flew home to Portland on Tuesday. My stitches are healed. I have been through a few antibiotic related stomach ailments and I am working on physical therapy to get movement back in my right arm. It has now been over two months and I am finally not sleeping the day away. I am so blessed to have ended up at Western Medical Center and under the care of Dr. Bina and the wonderful staff at Western Medical Center. I know I am so lucky to have gotten through this horrible disease with so little damage to my body. We never did figure out where the infection came from. There was no bruise or open would around the area I first experienced pain. I had been exposed to impetigo earlier that week and perhaps I had also been exposed to strep throat but we could never determine how the strep entered my system . Some things we will never have answers to.