|Paul Smith's Survivor Story|
August 26 to October 3rd, 2008
I spent Monday in and out of bed, which I do when I don't feel well. Tuesday my bride was called on to stay with our grandsons so I was alone all day. About 10:00 or 12:00 I slipped and fell in my bedroom. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get myself off of the floor, standing upright. I walked around for another 1/2 hour or so and fell again. Try as I could, I could not get up. After struggling for another 2 hours I gave up. Several people called me, but I couldn't even reach my phone on the desk above my head. The worst part was the mess I made. I had diarrhea and my back was killing me. The bump under my right arm was growing and very sore. I was horribly thirsty and wasn't able to get anything to drink. After about 2 hours my bride came home and somehow we got me up, cleaned up and called urgent care. They told my bride to take me to emergency. I think the story of me laying on the floor for 2 hours convinced them that I was pretty sick. The last thing I remember was my bride wheeling me into the emergency room, sitting there in the wheel chair and drinking and drinking. The doctor came in and was really ticked because I have been drinking so much.
I want to tell the story I was told of the courageous medical team that fought and fought for the next 8 to 10 days to save me. 8 separate operations in 8 days. One of my pastors tell of the tubes running out of me, more than a, "Borg," on the Star Trek, TV series. My daughter, "Nurse Rachette," tells of protein leaking out of my side faster than they could put it back in my system, so they used a bio-fiber skin graft to seal me. I had a feeding tube through my nose for 21/2 weeks.
I want to tell the story of my family, cousins, brothers and sister, and brothers and sisters in Christ, that ministered to me. I had Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti fervently praying for me as hurricanes were ravaging their homes and crops. My sister and son-in-law slept in the room every night while I was fighting for my life. My brothers stayed at the hospital every day. I remember hearing my sister, reading from the book of Isaiah, as I lay there with horrible hiccups because of the tracheotomy tube in my throat. I was told that my daughter read the book of Romans to me, but I don't remember. The prognosis was, I was probably going to have to be in an assisted care facility for a while after being released from the hospital. My daughter, a nurse was busy interviewing prospective facilities, between visits. Not much else went on around the family while I was out.
My kids had a crew come in and clean up around our old shack, preparing it for possible sale. My bride and daughter found an apartment where we would be able to get a hospital bed into one bedroom as well have a bathroom with wheelchair access. Can you imagine how that impacted me when I was able to comprehend the facts. October 3rd, 2008, I WALKED out of the Burn Unit, Emanuel Hospital, Portland, Oregon, with skin grafts over 20% of my body. They say that I had lost 20% of my body mass; from right arm pit to right hip, 1" deep and 5" to 12" wide. I have scars on both arms where they investigated the advance of the disease. December 31, 2008 the doctor told me to go live life.
Today, if I am dressed, the only outward indication of the disease is a diamond shaped scar about 5" long on my left arm. I am so grateful to the hoards of Christian brothers and sisters that prayed for me. October 3rd, 2008 is my 3rd birthday. My first birthday, January 17, 1941, I was born to walk on this earth. May 16, 1990, I accepted Christ as my savior in my heart, is my second birthday. I have the same feeling as many of you here. Now What? Why was I saved, when so many aren't? Not only was I saved, I can walk up and down stairs, lift, bend, work with my hands laugh and cry as before. These are scars that are going to take a while to heal, maybe a lifetime.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2010
This is a follow-up report, 2 years after I was attacked by NF. I was attacked in August 2008. By the Grace of Our Lord, I walked out of the hospital, October 3rd, 2008. At the end of this report, I am going to include my email address. I would hope you might contact me with any impressions or comments you might want to share. I think it is important to tell of some of the challenges I am facing. I know you will have other issues but, if by sharing my challenges we can all learn from each other. Here is a set of photos taken about two months after I walked out of the hospital.
I am very grateful to be able to live a fairly normal life. It has taken two years before I can say I feel human again. I know by reading some of the survivor stories that many of you have recovered more quickly. I can’t say why it has taken so long for me. NF affected more than just my skin. Upon waking up in the ICU, I noticed that my hands and feet began to shed all of the calluses. This was a process that took over a month. Since that time, I have had a tingling in my fingers and a loss of sensory feeling in my hands and feet. I have just been to visit a Neurologist, who diagnosed me with neuropathy in my hands and feet. I am a Type II diabetic, but have been able to control the disease. I am surprised by the diagnosis, because I know many other Type II diabetics who don’t have the same neuropathy.
I still get fatigued very easy, without much stamina. Since January, I have been going to a gym three days a week, exercising for at least 45 minutes. I try to raise my heart rate to at least 115 beats, using the cardio machines available. I had to quit many of the limbering and strength machines because they caused too much pain after exercise.
I hope this has been a help to some.
Lake Oswego, Oregon USA
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October 9, 2010