Karen

Meningitis Survivor | California

I never thought that going out with my friends on dinner adventures or working 40 hours a week as a registered nurse would somehow get me to almost lose my life. On December 9,2011 I was diagnosed with a severe form of bacterial meningitis called meningococcemia. Initially, I had flu like symptoms so I didn’t think it was anything serious. I tried to get some rest and sleep it off, but something or someone, told me to stay awake.

Then all of a sudden I couldn’t urinate despite drinking a lot of fluids and my bladder feeling full. I couldn’t feel my feet because they were suddenly extremely cold and numb. I stumbled as I walked and I became anxious and short of breathe within minutes. By the time I was in the ER I was unable to walk completely. The doctors and nurses couldn’t even take my blood pressure because it was too low. At this point all my major organs were failing rapidly. The doctors were insisting my mom call the rest of my family because they didn’t think I was going to make it. I was transferred to the ICU right away. According to the doctors, If I stayed at home 30 minutes more and fell asleep I would have died due to multi organ failure. I survived two heart attacks, a blood clot in my brain, kidney failure, and respiratory failure to name a few.

For 15 days I was in a medically induced coma while my body continued to deteriorate. I woke up Christmas Eve thinking it was the next day only sleeping 8 hours. The bacteria kept on spreading throughout my body causing blood clots to my extremities. This eventually made my limbs gangrenous in color because of lack of oxygen. I had a tattoo on my ankle that wasn’t even visible anymore because of the dark gangrene color. I was not able to talk for the first three months due to a tube helping me breathe lodged in my throat. Ventilators and other machines were helping me stay alive. I had dialysis machines attached to me because of my inability to produce urine. A feeding tube helped me eat, but it never provided the satisfaction of food in my stomach.

For 3 months I was unable to eat or drink through my mouth. Making my needs known was nearly impossible as well as very frustrating. There were so many times that I just wanted to give up. I had to spell on a board by pointing to the letters in order to communicate my needs and tell whether or not I was in pain, which was almost all the time. The pain I went through was unbelievable which made me highly tolerant after a while. Being poked with needles and having nerve pain was a daily routine. To make it worse I didn’t have a voice so I couldn’t scream or express my feelings. I woke up every single day terrified not knowing how much pain I would have, what the day would be like, or even if I would survive. The hardest part about being a patient is having the knowledge of a nurse. Realizing what kind of complications can arise and what the procedures were was frightening. Besides being physically uncomfortable, I found myself always psyching myself out thinking the worst possible scenario which was torture. I underwent over 20 surgeries during my 5 month stay in the ICU and every single time I feared for my life. I still have at least a few more surgeries to undergo.

Due to this debilitating illness, I suffered a great loss to my quality of life which is something we all take for granted. I lost all four limbs to this horrible bacteria. Physically and emotionally I was in a lot of pain. Autografts (skin grafts from my own body) were placed all over other parts of my body which made me feel hot due to the lack of natural pores for perspiration. My body feels like it’s 100 degrees all the time. The bacteria also affected my face and grafts were placed on my cheek. Due to this bacteria I physically lost my nose, top lip, my hair, some of my hearing in both ears, and part of my ear which through time grew back on its own. Mentally, I lost so much more. Reconstructive surgery plays a big part in my life now and has helped me stay optimistic. I always believed and trusted God in my life, but now more than ever. Everything happens for a reason and I believe God gave me this challenge because He knows I can handle it. I have been discharged home from the hospital and I am resting at home trying to heal. With the support of my family and friends I have been able to stay positive and not dwell in the past. It’s miracle I’m alive and I am very grateful because I do believe I am here on earth for a reason which is to inspire.


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