Nicole's NF Survivor Story
Warning - *graphic images follow story*
I don’t even know where to begin this story so I am going to do my best to bring it all together for you. My name is Nicole Martin. On January 12, 2005, I went to the hospital to give birth to my first born. (My only child at this time.) I was in labor for eighteen and a half hours and after seventeen hours of labor and no baby, I was scheduled for an emergency c-section. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy on January 13. On January 16, I was released from the hospital and was to return two days later to have my staples removed. Other then just giving birth and sweating off and on, I felt just fine. When the nurse went to remove my staples, I was in a lot of pain and she assumed I had an infection and called the doctor to prescribe some antibiotics, which she did.
The following day, I started sweating even more and was feeling tired and emotional. My husband was on his way overseas when our son was born and was stationed in Georgia for training. He kept telling me I had postpartum syndrome and I wanted to reach through the phone and tell him "That’s not it, it’s something worse," but I didn't know what it was! During the night my temperature went through the roof, so I called my mother-in-law at 5am and waited for her to get to my home to watch the baby so that my mother and sister (cousin) could take me to the hospital. I waited in the emergency room for about an hour or more because they misplaced my name when going down the list of patients. When the nurse called me back to take my vitals he took my blood pressure 3 times because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. My blood pressure was 55 over 88, but I was still able to walk and talk and stand. The nurse was in shock.
I was moved to a room immediately and they began poking me with needles and pressure machines. The emergency room doctor came in and started running tests and he pushed on my stomach and started doing cultures. I was admitted to the hospital where my doctor could do more tests. One of the nurses noticed a block spot on my incision which seemed to her to be growing at a fast rate. She called the doctor in and the doctor then called in a specialist who said I needed surgery right away. My doctor (OB) said that she wanted me to have the best care possible and transferred me to anther hospital specializing in wound care. The ambulance ride was one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever been on.
I was then brought into a room where my entire family, my mom, dad, both sets of grandparents, sister (cousin), aunts and uncles, and about 10 doctors stood over me and told us what was about to take place, informing them that there was probably not a good chance I would come out of surgery alive, and if I did, I would need a lot of therapy. My mother asked what does she have, what is making her so sick? The doctor said "From our specialist review and test, it is what we call Necrotizing Fasciitis, a life threatening flesh eating bacteria, that’s why there is such an odor, its eating at her flesh and that’s why she is getting worse."
I was out of surgery about 5 hours later and was in ICU for about a week or more. Everything after this point is very vague to me. I remember waking up and getting upset because I was trying to talk to my parents and ask questions using one of those alphabet boards that they use for kids when they are learning how to read. My mom was the only one that was able to figure out what I was saying but it was hard for her, so the nurse got me a pencil and paper, which I thought I was writing perfectly but it was mainly just scribble. My mother, still to this day, carries the paper in her purse.
The following day I was taken off of the ventilator after I finally woke up choking on it, but I still had several IV's in my arms and one in my neck which they called a central line. And this awful tube that started inside my nose and went all the way to my stomach. I had these itchy, hot, sweaty, plastic wraps on my legs filling up with air and massaging my legs, and heart monitor on my chest and oxygen. I didn’t look like a 100 bucks but I felt 100 times better. I did on the other hand have this very large open wound on my stomach it was 50 CM long and 12 CM wide. I guess you could say I hated each and every nurse or doctor that came in to look at it because they had to pull the bandages off and it hurt so much. But at the same time I am thankful for those nurses and doctors who took such great care of me.
I was moved from ICU into another part of the hospital which they call OCU (Observation Care Unit). I still had all the machines and IV's but I was no longer what they called "critical." I was in the OCU for another week and then finally moved to my own room. I was able to sit up and move around without having to have help. But I wasn’t allowed to move from the bed without someone with me. I was siting in this room in this uncomfortable hospital bed and all I could think of was my little baby boy. I wanted to be with him, I wanted to be the one holding him and singing him to sleep. I wanted to be home with him.
When I finally got to go home my newborn son was about a month and a half old. So much had changed since the last time I had seen him. I wasn’t able to pick him up. I had to be sitting and wait for someone to bring him to me. I had to do this for two months. By this point, my husband was sent home on medical leave and I had to wake him up so he could go get the baby and bring him to me so I could feed him and put him back to sleep. Then my husband had to put the baby back to bed and then help me back to bed. Not only did I have a lot to do in recovery but so did my husband. He not only had to go to work, but he also had to take care of me and the baby. He was one tired man once he got done. I think he understands how hard it is on me now. During the day my sister (cousin) stayed with me and the baby and helped me and then when my husband got home from work he took over. My mother and father came over as much as possible to help me and to watch over the baby so that the nurses could come in and change my bandages. After I had recovered enough to not have the nurses coming in all the time my husband and sister (cousin) started changing the bandages for me. It was difficult for them and painful for me but we all got through it.
Now, two years later, we are all doing wonderful. I was really scared to have another surgery this year (2006) but I went through it and came out fine.
I am putting this out there so that every one will know what a life threatening illness NF is, to always be careful and to seek help immediately if you suspect you have it.
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Survivor story by Nicole Martin, December 31, 2006. Used by permission. Editing and page by Doreen.