|September 25, 1925 - July 18, 1998|
My Mother’s name was Jeanne Herrington. You can see in her picture that she was a beautiful woman. She was 72 years old. She lived all her life in Tyler, Texas. That is where she died. It all started with a visit to a Dentist who did a crown lengthening procedure. No big deal. Routine enough that Mother didn’t tell me about it beforehand. On April 21, 1998 she went in the dental office at 10:00 a.m., had the procedure done and was sent home. She had pain throughout the day, but it worsened. My stepfather called the Dentist that night and he met them at his office at 10:00 p.m. Twelve hours later. He gave her an injection in her lower right jaw and changed the dressing and sent her home again. She was shaking in pain. He should have sent her on to the Hospital — but didn’t. He sent her back home.
A little after noon the next day - on April 22, 1998 things were still going downhill. Mother’s fever had spiked, she was having increased severe pain and couldn’t get out of bed. My aunt was at her bedside when I got the phone call. I could hear Mother moaning loudly in the background, and I left work immediately to drive the 120 miles to Tyler from my hometown of Arlington, Texas.
My stepfather had called the Dentist’s office several times throughout the day but he never got to speak with the Dentist personally. His receptionist and his assistants gave him these orders: Ice pack and Advil. Each time. By mid afternoon, all hell broke loose! He re-emphasized that Mother was a) running a fever b) having increased redness and swelling in her jaw c) it was spreading to her neck and to the other jaw d) she had soiled her nightclothes and e) she was having difficulty breathing. Plus…Advil? She couldn’t even swallow!
Why didn’t Mother get to the Emergency Room sooner? I partially blame my stepfather for not taking her earlier, because Mother kept telling him that she needed to go to the Hospital, and I blame the Dentist and his staff for not hearing bells and sirens! Red flags waving!
By the time I got to Mother, my stepfather had finally taken her to East Texas Medical Center Emergency Room, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had never seen her look worse. She looked at me and said weakly, "I am so sick!" I said, "Mother, you are in good hands now — they are going to take good care of you!" She had swelling in her lower right jaw (the area where the teeth were worked on) swelling, and it had now spread to the other jaw as well. Also, her air passages were getting blocked, because she was having more difficulty breathing and kept clearing her throat, and she had the "rash" down in her chest area. The E.R. doctor removed the packing from her right lower jaw and it was green/yellow. (This is the packing the Dentist put in the night before.) He threw it on the floor right in front of me! He said, "My God!" They admitted her to ICU very shortly thereafter.
The next morning, the Hospital had called in an Infectious Disease doctor who told me that the cultures showed that Mother had Group A Strep Flesh-Eating Bacteria. The only way she would live was if he went in and did debridement to clear out as much of the infection as possible. The surgery was done early that day. He came out after surgery and said that it was going to be touch and go. He said this disease is like a tornado — you never know how much damage it will do. Mother progressively got weaker and the next day was put on a respirator. She never got off of it again. She had 5 debridement surgeries on her jaw bone, neck, had some of her teeth pulled, had a tracheostomy done and then slowly, every organ in her body failed. She valiantly fought hard for 61 days. She would take one step forward and 3 steps back. I will never forget the day I went into her room (they moved her around different rooms and floors throughout her stay) and I had to look at her arm bracelet to make sure it was my Mother. I honestly didn’t recognize her. It was heartbreaking. She had a feeding tube that was misplaced, and she vomited through her tracheostomy hole, and aspirated the "food" into her lungs. She developed ARDS. She had "torsades" and ventricular arrythmias in her heart. She had edema/swelling in her whole body. She had a paralyzed ileus in her intestines. She had septic infections from the catheter sites in her neck, and leg. She had numerous IV antibiotics. She had blood transfusions, dialysis for several days near the end, and then total kidney failure. The last EEG showed little or no brain activity. It was then that the Doctors offered no hope. I knew she didn’t want to live with no hope of recovery. She had been through too much already. I saw the damage the tornado called NNFF can do.
I miss her terribly. I am still grieving two years later. My daughter and I both get real panicky when we have to go to the Dentist now. Luckily, we have an understanding dentist who knows what has happened, and he takes good care with us. But remember — you can get NNFF from a bruise, a scratch, a sore, so it’s not just dental work!
As for me, I see a Counselor, a Psychiatrist, and take an antidepressant. I have Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome and deal with Panic Attacks. For a long time I have been afraid that NNFF would happen to me. I have had a deeper relationship with God since this ordeal happened. My husband died suddenly from cancer just two years earlier. He had it for 7 months. My son has had testicular cancer twice in the past 4 years. I’ll tell you this: Without trust in God, I would be much worse. It does no good to ask "Why?" We aren’t going to get any answers. Just have FAITH. Hold on. Help other people who are dealing with the same things. I have on the wall behind my computer these words: "My peace I give you … Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
God Bless You, Donna and Jackie, for founding NNFF and for your website. I will be there for anyone if they want to talk, if they need prayers, for after all, I know your hurt and I care.
Copyright © 1997-2003 National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation (NNFF)
All Rights Reserved.
June 27, 2005