Kathleen Brown

It was December 28, 2001. I was sitting at the kitchen table opening my mail. My grandson was sitting with me. As I ran my finger under the envelope flap, I got a paper cut. I immediately got up and washed my hands. I went on with my mail thinking nothing of it. On January 1, 2002, my husband took my grandson home while I prepared to return to work. (I'm a school social worker in Bridgeport, CT.) I noticed the paper cut was red, and raised. I still thought nothing of it. I went to work on the 2nd feeling down and tired. That evening my son noticed that my index finger, the one with the cut was swollen and red. He told me to call the doctor and get it checked. I laughed and said it's just a small infection. If only I knew then what I know now. On the third I woke up feeling terrible. I told my husband I was going to go to work but asked if he could pick me up if I felt worst later on. By 10:30 AM I was calling him to get me. I had a temp and thought I was getting the flu. He dropped me off at home and said he would see me later. By now, I had a red line from my knuckle to just past my wrist. I also had a terrible pain under my right arm. I assumed I had pulled a muscle. I went to bed after I got home and went right off to sleep. I didn't wake up until 7:30 PM. I asked my husband for a glass of Coke. I took one sip and vomited. That was the end of my eating or drinking. I went back to sleep only to wake up to vomit or have diarrhea. Boy did I have a bad case of the flu! I slept through the whole day on the 4th of January. I even forgot to call into work. Again my husband woke me up that night to see if I needed anything. I said no and off to sleep again. My youngest son came into the room to say by and ask if I would be OK. I told him yes and off he went. If I had only known that would be the last time I would see him. He would return to FL. on the 6th to go back to school. On January 5th, I woke up at 6:00 AM and cried to my husband to help me. I told him I had never been this sick in my life. I've had many illnesses but never had I felt like this. After trying to reach my doctor, my husband got me dressed, helped me to the car and drove me to St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport, CT. When we got there, I could barely keep my eyes open or answer any questions. The nurses and Doctors immediately put me in a room and began to take my vital signs. My blood pressure couldn't be found. They couldn't get an IV in my arms or hands. My heart rate was irregular. They put a line in my groin area and called for lots of consults. No one was able to figure out what was wrong. They only knew that I was close to not making it. Dr. Herbin, an Infectious Disease doctor was finally able to diagnose me. He lifted my right arm and saw a large purplish cist under my arm. Surgery was scheduled immediately. The cist grew as we waited for the OR to be prepared. I had no clue what was happening. After surgery on my right index finger, and under my right arm, I was finally sent to recovery. My son left for school the next morning not really knowing how serious I was. My oldest son came to visit but didn't really recognize me. I was swollen from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I had surgery under my arm again on that Tuesday. The following day I had surgery on my hand. I later had to hade two more operations on my hand. I remained in the intensive care unit for 3 and a half weeks in a coma. When I came out of the coma, I had no recollection of what had happened once I got to the ER. I stayed in the hospital for two more weeks. I also picked up the bacteria Mercers while in there. Upon discharge, I had to be sent to a rehab to learn how to walk with a walker and use my right hand again. I was in rehab for ten days. I was sent home with PT at home, a visiting nurse, and a Hand therapist and still on antibiotics. My husband had to learn how to give me the IV. I was finally able to start outpatient therapy in April. I had therapy through May. I did not go back to school that school year. I am back to work now. I started in September. I get very tired. I also get very depressed at times. My prayers and family get me through all of this. With out them and all the prayers sent on my behalf, I wouldn't be here today. I've had several doctors tell me that I they don't know how I made it through all this. They say they really didn't think I would make it. I've gotten most of my hand usage back. I can't make a fist or peel potatoes. It still hurts alot. I don't have the full range of motion in my right shoulder. I can't lift heavy things anymore. I still have pain under my arm. I have no feelings on the back of my arm. I have no lymph nodes on my right side. I lost a piece of my right breast. BUT, I'm alive and do most things. I thank God, my family, friends, and all those who prayed for me. I'd be more than happy to speak to other survivors or their families. I'm a social worker and am always helping whenever I can.