In March of 2013 I contracted necrotizing fasciitis. I was one of the interesting 15% of cases where it occurs internally, seemingly at random. Although NF does stem from a streptococcus strain, and I had been battling a severe sinus infection, in a germ rich environment, thus the origin of my particular “perfect storm”. The infection presented in the left side of my neck and the pain was excruciating by the time I went to the emergency room, where they battled my extreme low blood pressure and a body shutting down one organ at a time, to save me. Lots of tests were ran to determine what was going on, lots of antibiotics were started, the localized infection had expanded to systemic sepsis and bacteremia; the determination to cut into my neck to clean out as much of the infection as possible, protecting the carotid artery and all it leads to, was presented, I concurred, and it was carried out in short order. I was deathly ill, the surgery and antibiotic attack saved my life. I was in ICU for 9 days, little of which I remember, and then “on the floor” for another 13 days, I was sent home with IV antibiotics for 10 days via a PIC line, a wound vac and home health care visits scheduled, for care of the 10cm wound. Recovery from this point was and remains one of the hardest challenges of my life to date.
The initial home routine of dealing with the wound vac, and the monitoring of the IV PIC, and my vitals, was unpleasant and exhausting. The vac was soon discarded because the area of incision is so vascular and busy structurally that it was problematic. So I was soon dealing with bandage changes on an open wound every other day. It took about a month for the wound to close enough to make those changes no longer necessary. At this time recovery includes physical therapy to help me straighten my neck out, as I took to leaning into the injury to limit pain, PT to help strengthen my atrophied muscles, which is proving to be a very slow process, PT for cardio building because the phrenic nerve was either cut or damaged and the left side of my diaphragm doesn’t work very well, impeding the left lung; rest, appropriate nutrition to help my body recover, and emotional support for all of this, as well as other changes endured, like extreme hair loss, and losing my job; not to mention the 10cm scar running from ear to collar bone.
All this being drawn down to some bottom line summation sounds like complaint rather than description, perhaps because it’s hard to describe in any positive terminology. I have moments of despair and grumpiness about how my life is now different, and I have some strong emotions left over from the experience, and it’s ongoing effects, but, overall, I am grateful beyond what I have words for, to be here, in my life, with my family, my friends, my dogs, my garden, all of it; I am grateful for modern medicine, for bold and educated doctors, for hospitals dedicated to care, and even for physical therapists with their lunges and weights. I am grateful to be alive.