It has been almost a year since I last posted anything. There is a good reason.
This is the short version.
On the morning of May 25, 2015 I got out of bed at 4:30 am like any normal work day. This happened to be a day my pants got left on the floor overnight. Sometime that night a spider had crawled into my pant leg. Putting them on I didn’t feel the spider bite behind the right knee, until the next day. A brown recluse had bitten me and I didn’t know about it, yet.
By Wednesday morning it started to feel much like a regular bug bite, so I scratched at it a little & put some cortisone on it. I didn’t think much of it. The next day my leg was starting to hurt all over and the bite mark had doubled in size. That morning I told my supervisor that my leg was full of venom and I had to go home. This was around 9:00am. I had no idea what was in store.
May 27th, 2015 My wife took me to the urgent care clinic. I was vomiting red fluid and couldn’t walk without assistance. When they got me into the room, the doctor told my wife to get me to the emergency room immediately and offered to call for an ambulance. She opted to drive us there. We get to the ER in record time.
I was taken into triage right after arriving at Carson Tahoe Hospital’s ER where I recall some of my vitals being taken. I was right then taken to a room where a nurse tried many times to find a vein for an IV, but had no success. I have always had a problem with needles, shots & IV’s so you can imagine how this was for me. I was so dehydrated the doctor had to order what is refered to as a mainline IV. A mainline IV is inserted into the jugular vein on the neck. The first attempt was as unsuccessful as any of the other attempts around my body (I now have scars around my body, and nerve damage in the left foot from IV “pokes”). I don’t have any memory of it, but the mainline was finally a success. That first attempt was the last thing I remember.
May 28th, 2015 The hospital staff recognized that my condition was life threatening at this point. I was then put into a medically induced coma. The toxicology confirmed a brown recluse spider bite. I was septic at this point. One of the doctors happened to recognize that I had developed a case of Necrotizing Fasciitis up and down my right leg. In most cases Necrotizing Fasciitis wins the battle, it’s fast moving, dangerously uncommon and unrecognizable. Shortly after, I was then wheeled upstairs for the first of seven debridement surgeries. Soon I was having organ failures, starting with the kidneys & working its way around to a Pulmonary Embolism. They were pumping me full of antibiotics and countless blood transfusions.
It nearly took my life. I am a fighter and my support system was absolutely incredible. My family and friends were (and still are) fantastic. Apparently I am loved.
May 31,2015 My youngest child turned 12 and I was fighting for my life. Our friends
offered insisted on throwing him a birthday party. He had so much on his plate as did everyone else but that day he was happy.
June 4th, 2015 I was flown to the University of Utah Health Care Hospital for wound care. My wife had stayed by my side the entire time, held my hand, talked to me & put the TV on in my room so I would have some kind of routine. She had been eating food out of the cafeteria & drinking Starbucks for so long, and hadn’t had a haircut. She had slept in a chair since day one in the room next to me & looked tired & wore out. Her life had become all about getting her husband back.
My 20 year old daughter stepped up and cared for the younger kids, paid the bills and generally took care of the household. The other two had to grow up fast and I think they did. When they weren’t at the hospital, that is. My children are strong & had hope. Deep down my illness was what kept all of them going, knowing that I was going to get better and come home some day. At least some part of me would.
June 19th, 2015 I woke up from the coma without any knowledge of what had happened to me, or what my family had been through. My wife and her sister were the first thing I saw when I woke up, as if they were waiting for it. I don’t remember what I did at that moment other than smile at them. I had a tracheotomy done and was unable to speak. I do remember knowing at that moment that my right leg had been amputated, even though I couldn’t feel, well, much of anything. It’s strange but somehow, I knew before anyone told me. I have never been much of a mind reader but I know just how much relief Karen & Sue felt right then.
They had performed a full right Hip Disarticulation the day before. They weren’t done with me yet. To ensure that no more infection would occur, the surgeons had not yet finished sewing me up. Four days after amputation, They sewed me back together. When I asked how many stitches I had received the answer was “a lot” (later, I was told it was around 200 total, some of which I am still having “dug” out of me to this day).
June 26, 2015 The physical & occupational therapy team at the university started working with me. It didn’t take to long to get me out of my bed, by hoist and into a wheelchair. That day Karen & the lead nurse took me for a ride to through the hospital and out the service entrance so I could see the sun again. Karen said it was her birthday present.
The hospital nurses and doctors say that I was the fastest healing case that they had ever seen. My therapists had me standing within a couple of days, said much the same. Soon Karen and I were off and rolling around the hospital and even outside alone with permission from the staff. Everyone kept calling me a rock star. It’s only me, no one special.
June 30, 2015 I was transferred from ICU to the 2nd floor rehab. The next morning I got a schedule for physical, occupational, and speech therapies for the day. My workouts were possibly the most difficult task of my life. This became the norm for me daily including a trip to the grocery store one day. They had me buying ingredients for breakfast, then cooking for everyone in the rehab kitchen. Soon I was making ice cream, painting & assembling shelves. Again, one of the fastest rehabs they had seen. I am a determined man, and was starting completely over, like a baby does at birth.
July 4, 2015 This was the day I have been waiting for. The day my kids came to Utah for a visit. We hadn’t seen each other since June. I missed them maybe more than they missed me, but you wouldn’t guess that though by the looks on their faces when they got there. When you wake from a coma, be it an induced or otherwise, the only thing you want is home and family. At least that was my case, my children made me feel alive that day. Later that night we all tried to see the firework show across Salt Lake City from the indoor bridge to the Children’s Hospital. Not visible, but still one of the best days I can remember.
July 10, 2015 FINALLY. I had worked so hard for this day, the day the hospital staff discharges me. So much relief, yet so far from home. My wife and I had a 530 mile drive ahead of us to get home. The simple complications of a hospital discharge held us up until around 4:00 pm so we were forced to drive only half way to Elko, NV where my weary wife was able to get us a room at a Motel 6 for the night. We did stop a few times on the way after that, it being July & a hundred plus degrees. An added bonus, it was fire season. If you remember your recent national news, nearly the entire left side of the country was on fire last summer. We stopped at a couple of rest stops to breath in all that smoke, what a joy that was. HaHaHa. We did make it there sometime around 11:00 pm and not a minute to late. I was still sporting 200 plus stitches (which were quite the pain in the ass, pun intended).
Karen. What can I say? Throughout the entire ordeal had learned more about medicine that she ever wanted to. She was trained by the staff at UUHC and was participating in my wound care and bathing while still in ICU. She never batted an eye, never gave up on me, she never broke down in front of me. To this very day this woman is my primary caretaker, my taxi driver, my therapy partner and the love of my life.
July 15, 2015 While transferring from my wheelchair, I fell straight down to hit my amputation area on the frame of the couch with full force. Damn it hurt. A lot.
July 17, 2015 Karen took me in to Carson Tahoe Hospital emergency room for a “better safe than sorry” check, seeing as how I was taking Levonox shots. Levonox if you don’t know, is a blood thinner that is administered by injection twice daily into the stomach. Turns out the fall had triggered another infection and I was hospitalized again for another four days. I went through more IV’s, four different antibiotics and more blood transfusions. I nearly lost again, at least I would be near my home and family this time. I was released July 21 around 10:00 am to go home. Relief, again.
November 23, 2015 I received my new prosthesis. Some of the little things about it made it difficult to use, not mention the fact that after 43 years of having a meat leg, then suddenly no leg. That was hard too. A few adjustments later and I was off.
December 10, 2015 Things had been going hard but forward to this point. Then the shit hit the fan…I fell backwards in my bedroom and landed directly onto my pelvis where the amputation had been performed while not wearing the leg. Needless to say, the entire house shoot. Shortly after we arrived at the Carson Tahoe Hospital ER again, I was given a shot that I think I’m still high from. X-Rays were done, only to find no fractures. Relief, again.
Not much relief. I had a bone bruise on my pelvis that pushed my therapy nearly six weeks back. The good people at the therapy clinic found other ways to help me continue forward anyway. Just not with a prosthesis. I put the leg back on some time later and have been working it with no small amount of problems.
I dropped the walker around mid February, 2016 to walk with only a crutch. Soon after that I said to myself “I want to walk”. I have been walking with no assistive devices other than a prosthesis, since around the last week of Feb.
March 27, 2016 I fell again the day before a scheduled appointment with my prosthetist. I was working in the garden and I had become complacent, and was lifting a pallet over my head without any thought of my own safety. My prosthetic knee buckled and I went straight down, shoving the carbon fiber socket up into my ribs and back. The next day I started having a bit of pain in the left lower back/rib area. It only hurt enough to keep the leg off during physical therapy for half a session before we had to call it. I was iced down and sent home with another occupational therapy cancellation which I had scheduled immediately afterward.
April 2, 2016 The lower back/ribs have been increasingly getting worse up until my wife drove me to the ER, again. I am now enjoying a fine muscle tear that is again keeping me down and out of the leg for a while.
A short while.
Although this is the short version of our story. This is a lifelong endeavor that I will never give up on. I’ve been in physical & occupational therapy for around nine months now, and I know this will all come to a sudden end one day. That is the day my life opens up to all the possibility my mind can muster. Whatever that may be, We live with all the joy and love for each other that our hearts can give.
Here’s a good webpage about spiders with lot’s of info you don’t know