2018 will mark the 20 year anniversary of our victory in battle with necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria — thank God. This site has been up and running since about 1999 and we’ve been privileged to serve tens of thousands of visitors and correspond with hundreds of survivors, friends, family members, and others who just want to understand a little something about this intrusive, rude, cruel, virulent, deadly disease. Sometime around October 2018, I’ll be parking the flesheatingbacteria.net URL — If you would like to continue following our saga, the best place to go will be our Facebook page, Overcoming Necrotizing Fasciitis. I’ve also migrated all the pages and posts to my personal page at BoSalisbury.com.
This is one of the best quotes for survivors I’ve seen:
I’m not a Paralympian or anything like that, I’m a normal woman who enjoys running. Hopefully, when other people with disabilities see me out running, they will see that it is attainable.
For those of us who have survived something like the flesh-eating bacteria or who are living with a debilitating disease or physical condition, it’s good to get a fresh perspective from someone like Cindy Martinez. She is:
a Gwinnett County woman [who] simply doesn’t have the words “I can’t” in her vocabulary. Source: Flesh-eating bacteria survivor inspires others – Story | WAGA
These kinds of stories can, at first, seem a bit discouraging for someone like me, who will never be able to accomplish the feats that Cindy has. Others with multiple amputations may just want to give up after reading an article like this. Some are so emotionally scarred and depressed that a story like this may seem to just “pile on.”
But, my motive for publishing these happy endings is to provide a perspective, an opportunity to look beyond our circumstances in order to overcome any self-imposed barriers to health and happiness. We have plenty of actual problems — it’s not helpful to manufacture or search for more in our own minds. Rather, we ought to think about what we can or really want to do, whenever the words “I can’t” come to mind.
It’s great to see someone battle back after their ordeal with necrotizing fasciitis and a brush with death.
Haxton had been an elite rower in high school at Upper Arlington and for months after his illness, Blake had no plans to try adaptive rowing. But with some urging, he discovered the sport and quickly realized he was a natural. He was soon among the best in America.
We share a similar perspective, which may come from extended time unconscious or in a coma: the ordeal is worse for family and friends, watching this disease devour us in real time, while we are “off somewhere.”
We wish Blake Haxton the best in his competition!
Watch the video over here: Rower tries for Para Olympics after flesh eating bacteria derailed his training | WRIC
Back in October, I wrote about an injury to my reconstructed left leg that left a hole over my superior and inferior retinaculam (top of my foot, at the ankle), which revealed my tendon, sliding back and forth, as I moved my foot (shivers). As a necrotizing fasciitis survivor, one becomes something of a wound care specialist and, though I’ve gotten along treating myself for nearly 20 years, this one required more expertise than I have.
So, I visited my general practitioner to get a referral to a plastic surgeon, because I felt a graft may be required. But, the wound began coming together by that time and my GP was able to really help it out with some minor surgery in his office. After the removal of some hypertrophic tissue at the top of the wound, the skin was able to grow down to cover the ulcer.
Well, here we are a little more than four months after the initial injury and the wound has closed. Along the way, I learned a few important lessons from the fabulous staff at the Sierra Nevada Wound Care Center. This was the first time I’ve used silver gel extensively and another one of those amazing new medical marvels, the ionic silver gauze sponge. At the center, they treated me with a silver sponge, but those were a little pricey for me and I just used the sterile generic sponge dressing with silver gel at home.
Later, when the moisture was no longer degrading the ulcer, I switched back to my old friend, Xeroform. That petrolatum/bismuth impregnated gauze was so amazing on donor sites, when I was “essentially skinned alive from the tops of [my] toes to [my] chest” back in 1998 (the chilling post-op transcription by one of my surgeons, following my skin graft operations). On this wound, it provided a nice clean environment to grow skin. Back in the day, Xeroform cost about 10 times what it does now, so I’ve stocked up on my old friend and will use that, whenever my skin breaks down in the future.
Even though wound care gets tedious and is sometimes very depressing, I’m grateful to live in times when there are so many wonderful people to help and ingenious medical developments coming online.
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a friend, who lives in constant pain from a degenerative back ailment. We were discussing how often God blesses us through the curse: our fallen, broken, mortal bodies. If Jeremy Linneman is correct, 40 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain. I’m one of them. Here’s why chronic pain and the suffering that goes along with it can be a gift from The Paradox of Chronic Pain:
In this, chronic pain is a perfect illustration of the Christian life. It is a constant and demanding journey; it is supremely complex and often seemingly meaningless; and there is no cure for the hardship or hope for restoration in this world itself. Chronic pain, like every type of suffering, is a form of brokenness that drives us to Christ. When the pain persists, there’s simply nowhere else to go.
I’m reminded of this exchange from John’s Gospel:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66–69 ESV)
This week I’ll be heading back to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center to consult with a plastic surgeon on the skin ulcer over the tendon on my foot. A couple weeks ago, I was leaning toward a full-thickness skin graft to cover the area and get some more tissue over the tendon. Now, the wound is healing well and I’ll be surprised if the plastics man will suggest a graft. It’s looking good.
For those of us with extensive injuries from necrotizing fasciitis, this is part of a life-long process that can often be discouraging or downright depressing. It’s always good to look on the bright side and remember that we’ve not only survived, but traveled a long way in recovery. We may have a long way to go, but we’ve come too far to give up or turn back now.
“I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14 ESV)
Here’s another inspirational story about a young man, who just wouldn’t quit.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a wound I have on my tendon. I visited my GP and he did a bit of minor surgery and wound care on the hole over my tendon. It’s looking really good. But, he’s consulting with a plastic surgeon to see if I may need a full-thickness graft over the area. If I do have surgery, it would be the first since I left the hospital back in 1998. I had amazing results in the reconstruction of my leg and didn’t have to return to cover problem areas or releases on the keloid scarring around my joints. I suppose the tearing of the scar, while swimming with fins, was a sort of “non-surgical release.” I don’t want any more of those!
Prayers would be appreciated. Thank you.
Surviving the flesh-eating bacteria is an ongoing process. Once you make it past the initial 72 hours and find yourself still in the land of the living, dealing with the sometimes devastating effects can be challenging, whether the wounds are great or small. Often, I’ll post stories about those who have overcome incredible loss from this disease and, in light of their challenges, I see my wounds as being on the small end of the spectrum.
Denise has always wanted to visit the garden island of Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands. So, we flew over there earlier this month. I thought I would try paddle-board surfing while we were there and Hanalei Bay is ideally suited for a first timer. However, a day or so before we went north I put on my fins to swim around Salt Pond Beach Park near Port Allen. When I left the water and pulled off my bootie, I found that the scarring over the tendon at my ankle had torn and I was trailing a lot of blood.
I carry some first aid in my backpack at all times, including a wrap and gauze pads, but the amount of blood was unexpected and the wound was on a spot that’s hard to treat, apart from some kind of pressure sock. I visited the lifeguards, who handed me a couple of antiseptic towelettes and advised me to use the aloe plant they had growing next to their station as an astringent wound dressing. I followed their advice and applied gel from the “leaf” all day. It was pretty effective.
I thought I was good to go for the paddle board session, since I didn’t anticipating flexing my foot much and the wound seemed to stabilize quickly. What I didn’t know was that you really begin to learn paddle-boarding on your knees and I ended up tearing the wound another half inch or so. Soon, I was bleeding out into the beautiful clear water, right around the point from where Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark attack. I’m not that concerned about sharks (maybe I should be), but there’s just something about having a gaping wound that brings me down a bit and I really couldn’t enjoy myself out on the water.
This is one side of being a necrotizing fasciitis (NF) survivor I’ve never really overcome completely. When I have open wounds or other lingering issues from NF that rise to a certain level of discomfort or concern, I’ve noticed some subtle negative effects in the following areas:
- My sleep is sometimes affected and I will wake up for no apparent reason. Then, I’ll lie awake for an hour or so, thinking about the condition or wound and how I will treat the problem. I go through the catalogue of techniques I’ve learned about wound care in my mind. I’ll wonder, “why is it taking so long to heal or leave? ” In the morning, I’ll wake up with the sun shining and the problem doesn’t seem that big. After a while, I’ll fall into the routine of treatment and my sleep is no longer a problem.
- It’s become routine now, to take all the precautions I know I should. Yet, I’ll still be a bit too concerned about getting a serious infection. Then, I’ll see reminders that my danger of infection is not as great as what other people face and I’ve always seen good results in my wound care.
- I think about the future and that one day, when I’m older and weaker, I may not be able to heal. That’s a needless worry and I can leave it in the Lord’s hands. He knows the day, the hour, and the cause of my death. My job is to take care of what’s been set before me and remember that there’s never been a better time for people with the kinds of problems I face. I have everything I need to take care of my body, as messed up as it is.
- Depression. Since I have some form of low-level, chronic depression, I begin wondering if I’m more depressed because of the wound I’m dealing with now or if the wound triggered this round of depression? No matter, I need to approach any form of melancholy in the same way:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)