Meningitis Survivor | Illinois

My name is Blake Schuchardt, and my story began in March of 2005 when I was 18 and a senior in high school. I was your average basketball playing teenage boy who only thought about sports and girls. I never really was very sick and when I did get sick, it was only a cold here or there.

So one day at school I started feeling like I was getting sick: stopped up nose, fever and weakness. I went home and decided to stay home the next day from school. Throughout the night I didn’t sleep very well. I kept tossing and turning and something just didn’t feel right. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was not really able to move my neck or turn my head without moving my entire body to do so.

I woke up around 10am and felt horrible. I figured if I took a hot bath maybe I would feel better, so I managed to make it to the bathroom and turn the water on in the tub, but I could barely stand up due to weakness. My feet hurt, but it’s hard to describe because I had never felt it before. I didn’t realize that my Dad had stayed home that day because he just knew something wasn’t right with me. He was downstairs in our basement when he heard me turn the water on in the tub. By that time I had barely made it back to my bed. I didn’t even have the energy to lie down; I just fell onto my bed like a bag of rocks.

My Dad came into my room and found me lying on my bed covered in purple blotches all over my body from head to toe. He decided to take me to the ER, but I wasn’t even able to dress myself so he put some clothes on me and took me to the car and raced to the hospital. There the doctor decided that I had a case of the flu and treated me for it. As I lay in the hospital bed, all of the purple blotches began to burn as if someone was burning me with cigarettes. That’s the best way I can describe it.

My family doctor was contacted and ordered me to the nearest major hospital. The ER doctor thought I was stable enough to be transported by car, so my Mom and Dad had to take me 2.5 hours to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. Once we arrived, the last thing I remember was sitting in a wheelchair asking my Dad if I could lie down. My Dad was standing behind me so I laid my head on his stomach.

The next thing I remember, I woke up a week later in a bed covered with lines and a breathing tube down my throat. I was so disoriented I was under the impression we were in the hospital for another family member. The following information is actually what my parents and family told me after the fact.

Once we arrived at the hospital that night I passed out and was taken to CCU where I was intubated. The nurses were unable to find my pulse and my blood pressure was nonexistent. The doctors told my family there was a 0% chance I would make it to the morning and to begin calling my family so they could come say their goodbyes. I surprised the doctors and made it a couple days in that condition until they finally gave me a 20% chance of making it.

I was started on dialysis, and a spinal tap was done confirming I had Bacterial Meningitis. My legs, feet, toes, hands and ears all turned black and the doctors were certain I would have to have them all amputated. I was in the hospital for 3 ½ weeks before I was stable enough to be released to my home. I managed to make it out of the hospital with all of my extremities intact. And those purple blotches now looked like 3rd degree burns all over my body. Over time I did have to have 3 tips of my toes amputated due to no blood flow. I started Physical therapy because I hadn’t walked in almost a month. It took several months before I could actually walk on my own. I was able to go to prom and even gave the opening prayer at my high school graduation.

I was on dialysis for a year and a half before I received a kidney transplant in October of 2006. I used all of this experience to make something of this life that someone was finished with yet. I attended college and obtained an Associate’s degree in science. Then I attended Nursing school where I received my Associate Degree in Registered Nursing. Now I am 26, married with a brand new baby girl (4 months old) and I currently work as a Home Therapies Dialysis Nurse teaching people how to do dialysis in their homes. I want to show those who are currently going through Meningitis or dialysis that their life is not over and they can do anything they put their minds to.

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