|Calamity Mikell's Survivor Story|
My name is Calamity Mikell and I am 48 years old and survivor of Necrotizing Fasciitis. I'm married and my husband, Spencer, and I have a son named Tyler. We live just outside of Pembroke, Georgia, a little town which is located about 35 miles northwest of Savannah, Georgia. In August of 2004, I found out that I was diabetic and I also started having a lot of problems with my periods at about that same time. I had a really large fibroid in my uterus. In November of 2004, my gynecologist told me that I needed to have a hysterectomy because the fibroid was growing at a fast rate and the bleeding was just getting worst. He sent me to another gynecologist, in his office, that was more experienced in doing the abdominal hysterectomies. I didn't want to have the surgery before the holidays so we scheduled it for December 28, 2004, after Christmas.
I developed this horrible disease after having my hysterectomy. I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days after having my hysterectomy and everything appeared to be fine so I was released on December 30th. My husband took me home that afternoon and we had only been home for a couple of hours when I started complaining of being cold. It was comfortable in our house, so he and a friend of ours knew there was something wrong. He checked my temperature. I had started running a low-grade temp of 100.1. He called my gyn doctor, but he was not on call, so the doctor on call told him to give me some Tylenol. He checked my temperature again about 45 minutes later and it had started coming down, it was 99.7. About an hour or so later, I started complaining again about being cold. My temperature had starting going back up, it was now at 101.2. He called my doctor back and was told to bring me back to the hospital. I returned back to the emergency room (Candler Hospital located in Savannah) and the doctor on call (Dr. McIntosh) meet us there. She examined me and my temperature was now 102. She told my husband that she was going to re-admit me and start me on IV fluids and antibiotics. She continued to monitor me through the night and the following day, but I still continued to run a fever. My incision, at this point in time, appeared to be fine. They knew I had an infection; they just weren't sure what type of infection I had and where it was coming from.
The next day (Saturday, January 1, 2005) another doctor was on call, Dr. Smith. He told us he thought the infection was coming from my incision. He cleaned out the wound and bandaged it. They were keeping me pretty well sedated because the pain was getting so bad. My sister said that I kept complaining with my left side hurting. My condition continued to worsen during that night and into the next day. The pain had gotten so intense and now there was some drainage from the wound with a very foul odor. My temperature was up to 103, and my body was beginning to swell. Dr. Smith returned to my room once again to examine me and to try and clean out my wound. He tried to go deeper into the wound. The pain was so bad, at that point he stopped and told me that he needed to take me back to surgery in order for him to find out what was going on. By this time I felt like I was dying, the pain had gotten so bad; I had never encountered pain like this before. A friend was staying with me at the hospital because my husband and sister had gone home to get some rest. My family didn't have a chance to get back to hospital before they took me back into surgery. Dr. Smith called in a general surgeon, Dr. Charles Usher. Dr. Smith also called in Dr. Scarborough, the surgeon who had done my hysterectomy. I remember Dr. Usher telling me that I was very sick and that he needed to do an exploratory to try and find out where the infection was coming from. At this point in time, they thought that possibly my bowel had been punctured during my hysterectomy. I told him to do whatever was necessary to save my life. The next thing I remembered was nine days later waking up in ICU. I found out that I had necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria. I was on a ventilator, had went through three debridement surgeries, had blood transfusions, placed in a drug induced coma, and had to have tubes placed in my ears so that I could be put in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber (for several times). My wound was left open and I was placed on a wound vac. Dr. Usher, Dr. Gifford Lorenz, my critical care doctor, Dr. Nenad Avramovski, my infectious disease doctor, and Dr. Joseph DeHaven, my primary care doctor, quickly became my heroes. This team of doctors never gave up on me. I found out that Dr. Usher had to remove a lot of the soft tissue and muscle in the lower abdomen, my belly button, and he had to tunnel through the left side of the lower abdomen and remove all the dead tissue from where the disease had spread. The tunnel went around almost to the middle of my back.
After the first debridement surgery, the doctors talked with my family and told them that I was critical and they did not know if I was going to make it. They also told my family that I was on a ventilator. They said that I needed to be placed in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber and afterwards I would be moved to ICU. I also had gone into respiratory failure. My husband, sister, family, friends, and my church family, started praying even harder for me. Even people that didn't really know me, but had heard of my condition, were praying for me. For the next two days I had more debridement surgeries. I'm sure this was like a roller coaster ride for my family. The next days were just that with my condition also. I kept running a high temperature. I was placed on a sports bed and they put me on cooling blankets to try and get my temperature down. The doctors and the nurses in ICU were doing all they could for me medically. Finally my temperature started coming down and the antibiotics started working. On January 11, 2005, the doctors brought me out of the drug induced coma and were able to bring me off the ventilator. I remember when I was awake and the wound care nurse came in to change my dressings for the wound vac. I thought I would die, they had three large sponges in the tunnel and abdomen and one large sponge on the outside of my lower abdomen. The nurse had her hand and arm in me past her elbow into the tunnel. The pain was really bad, even with the very strong pain medication. I could not bring myself to look at my wound. One day after being off the ventilator, I told my husband and sister that I wanted to see my son. He was eleven years old at the time. You are supposed to be twelve years old to visit someone in ICU. We had never been apart that long since he had been born. I couldn't imagine what my child had been going through. The next evening my sister brought Tyler to see me. I can't describe to you how I felt when they brought him to see me the first time. I tried so hard not to cry, but I couldn't hold back the tears (tears of joy). I think all my doctors and nurses would agree that seeing my son was just what I needed. The next day they moved me out of ICU into a regular hospital room. Dr. Usher tried to prepare me that my recovery could be a slow process. He said that that the wound had to close from the inside and that if it didn't close properly, I would need a skin graft. The wound started closing nicely. God had again answered our prayers.
I stayed in the hospital until January 28, 2005. I went home on the wound vac and with home health care coming in twice a week. I also had to return to the Wound Care Unit, located at the hospital I was in, once a week for their evaluation and to meet Dr. Usher so he could examine my wound. This would be our routine for the next several weeks. Four weeks after being released from the hospital, I returned back to work for a couple of hours a day for a couple of days a week. I think this was by far some of the best medicine for me. To feel like I was getting back some of my life. I wasn't able to do a lot, but just being out in the public and seeing the people and friends in our small town was wonderful. By the way, my employer (for almost 28 years) was wonderful through all this. He always put my health and my needs first, telling me not to worry about my job; it would be there for me. I really do appreciate all he's done for me.
Finally, on March 2, after almost two months, they removed the wound vac. Also home health care was discontinued at this time. The wound care nurses taught me how to clean and pack the wound. This was actually the first time I had really looked at the wound, now very small compared to what it had been. For the first couple of months, I just could not bring myself to look at it. In April, I started going to wound care once every two weeks. My wound finally closed in mid June, and Wound Care dismissed me. This was a very happy time for me. Dr. Usher and the wound care nurses were very pleased with my progress. However, in May, I learned that I had developed a hernia. Dr. Usher had told me during the time I was in the hospital, for the necrotizing fasciitis, that it was likely I would develop a hernia. The reason being that the mesh he used to close me after the debridement surgeries was dissolvable. He felt it was necessary to use this type of mesh instead of the permanent one because of the infection I had. He didn't want to take any changes that I would develop another infection. My skin was so thin and weak. It also didn't help matters either with me being overweight (obese). In August I had an appointment with Dr. Usher and he told me that I needed to have surgery for the hernia. I have to tell you that those words scarred me to death. I thought to myself, "I don't know how I can go through another surgery." I asked Dr. Usher to give me a few weeks. I also had to be cleared for surgery by my critical care doctor and my primary doctor. On November 9, I had another appointment with Dr. Usher to set up the hernia surgery and to ask him a lot of questions. Dr. Usher answered my questions and explained to me what could happen if I didn't I have the surgery. He told me that the hernia was getting larger. It had gotten so that I had a hard time coughing or standing for any length of time, the pressure from the hernia was that bad. I knew if I had to go through surgery again, I wanted Dr. Usher to be the one to do it. He assured me that things would be different this time that I would be monitored very closely. I told him that I would be praying that God would be with us. He told me that he would be praying also. The anxiety before the surgery was almost overwhelming. On November 29, 2005, I went back in the hospital for the hernia surgery. Emotionally I was a wreck, but I knew I had the best surgeon for the job. Dr. Usher removed the huge scar on my lower abdomen and repaired the hernia with an AlloDerm tissue graft. I stayed in the hospital for four days with no complications. That's been about three months ago and I'm feeling much better. My lower abdomen looks truly amazing now compared to what it did look like.
I thank God everyday that He spared my life. I know that He still performs miracles, because I'm one of His miracles. I'm still here with my family, able to watch my child grow up and to enjoy so many things that I have taken for granted. I look at each day of my life as being a special gift from God. God has blessed me with a wonderful, loving and caring family, whom I love so very much, our special friends that cared for our son during this time. I know I would not have made it, had it not been for all the prayers, love and support from my family, especially my husband, Spencer, and my sister, Polly. One or the other of them (or both) was always at the hospital during that horrible time. Also, God blessed me with awesome doctors, nurses and my wound care nurses. I love and admire these people dearly. I will never be able to thank them enough. I could not end this story without telling you again what an incredible surgeon I have. Dr. Charles Usher, he's been there with me (and my family) through this terrible time. He's been my surgeon, my sounding block at times, and my friend. He has this big wonderful smile that helped me to get through some pretty rough days in the hospital and my recovery. I will never forget this truly amazing doctor. I thank him so much for saving my life. Most of all, I thank God. I know that had it not been for His wonderful mercy, I would not be here today. I also know just how fortunate I am, my scar is in a place where it can be covered up. The many survivors that have had to have amputations, skin grafts, etc., my heart goes out to you. In the beginning, there were times when I felt like I was the only one that had ever had this horrible disease. I felt like my recovery has been a very slow process. After going onto this website and reading many of the survivors stories and the dedications, I truly know just how very blessed I am. My prayers are with all the survivors and their families, the families of the ones that didn't survive, the doctors and medical staffs that have been or continue to be affected by this terrible disease. Our lives are changed forever, but I thank God that I am still here and that I am now able to talk about it without crying.
Pembroke, GA USA
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March 15, 2006