I posted a story about this survivor back in October. This is… amazing. And, things have come a long way since 1998, when I was hit with necrotizing fasciitis. What we have here is another example of the way wartime medical advances pay huge dividends to victims of traumatic injuries or disease in peacetime. I recall speaking with one of my surgeons about skin grafts and what I considered to be a minor-medical miracle, Xeroform. He told me, “you are benefiting from procedures developed at a hospital in Texas, during the Vietnam war, that had an unlimited supply of burn victims coming in.” That’s a paraphrase, but it had a huge impact on me and I was reminded that many people came before me and didn’t make it — I was indebted to them. Will Lautzenheiser will have a daily reminder of the same lesson:
Last month quadruple amputee Will Lautzenheiser received the gift of a lifetime: two new arms. An anonymous donation had been made to Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, and three years after losing his limbs to deadly bacterial infection, the former professor of film production and screenwriting underwent a double arm transplant.
Eddie Garcia would survive, thanks to his aforementioned spirit, thanks to the medication that was nearly as potent as his vim and vigor, his grit and guts. The meds finally snuffed out the infection, though his limbs had to be sacrificed.
One persistent and annoying condition with my reconstructed leg is the occasional skin ulcer, which will sometimes result from a nick or breakdown in my grafted skin. Over the years, I’ve become an amateur wound care specialist, employing what I learned in the hospital and from reliable resources on the web… I will probably use pressure with zinc impregnated gauze, as well as open air now and again.
I’m happy to report that the skin has finally begun to make its move toward the center and each time I remove my bandage, there are patches of skin trying to form in the middle. So, it appears that we’re in the home stretch – I anticipate the wound to be completely healed by 2015.
If you have grafted skin as a result of necrotizing fasciitis, a burn or other reconstructive surgery, here are a few helpful links to help you heal.
BU alum Will Lautzenheiser became a comic after losing his limbs while battling a fierce, deadly infection.
Will Lautzenheiser loved teaching in the film department at Boston University, his alma mater. But as an adjunct professor, he wanted some security. When he was offered a faculty position at Montana State University in 2011, he grabbed the opportunity.
“If I didn’t blow it there,” he says, looking back, “I could have had a good full-time job.”
It’s a funny choice of words. Lautzenheiser didn’t “blow” it, he contracted a fierce, deadly infection just as he was starting his first semester. To save his life, the staff at a Salt Lake City trauma unit made the terrible but life-saving decision to amputate all four of his limbs.
We had an assignment in my 2 dimensional design class to come up with a non-fiction book cover, which emphasizes the sub-title over everything else. The goal of the exercise was to experiment with visual hierarchy or placing emphasis on the most important elements in a commercial design. I haven’t given up on my goal to write a book-length account of my brawl with NF. This would not be the cover – for one thing, the image is not mine. And, I think I would have a different sub-title and put that second or third in the visual hierarchy. However, I like the title 72 Hours, connected to the image of a ticking clock. As I tell people who wonder if I’m still contagious, “you have 72 hours to kill it or it kills you.” When NF strikes, the clock starts running and you have roughly 3 days to stop the onslaught — after that, it’s over. The bacteria is eliminated or the bacteria and its host both die. So, we’ll see about that book now.
One persistent and annoying condition with my reconstructed leg is the occasional skin ulcer, which will sometimes result from a nick or breakdown in my grafted skin. Over the years, I’ve become an amateur wound care specialist, employing what I learned in the hospital and from reliable resources on the web.
Right now, I have one the size of a quarter on my Achillies tendon and, if this one is like the others I’ve had before, it will take about 6 months to completely close up. So, I will probably use pressure with zinc impregnated gauze, as well as open air now and again. If you have grafted skin as a result of necrotizing fasciitis, a burn or other reconstructive surgery, here are a few helpful links to help you heal.
Do you know of a school, church or other organization that may want to hear the harrowing story of how one man was blind-sided by the flesh-eating bacteria and lived to tell about it? I’ve shared our story a number of times, including an annual gig in science classes at our local middle school during “bacteria week.” More than once I was followed the next day by that gripping video drama, Killer Kitchens. Well, I do that sort of thing and, if I speak to your group, I promise to be clean shaven, appropriately dressed, and I’ll bring a version of the tale that is relevant and engaging. Contact me with any requests or invitations and I’ll see if we can work something out.
I found some forgotten photographs, while going through my files (I’ve put this off for about ten years). Well, I came across this one of me being shaved by someone outside the frame. There’s actually a lot going on in this photo that takes me back to the experience and is probably triggering some symptoms of PTSD right now!
The first thing I noticed is that my sheets are clean and there is a new, baby blue “chuck” on the bed. This tells me that Denise has already given me my sponge bath and they’ve removed the bloody, nasty, filthy sheets – the first of two times they would do that each day, ripping them off open wounds and scattering dead skin and stuff everywhere. Yes, I was a disgusting mess and having a clean bed twice a day was a little bit of heaven – I’m not kidding.
Second, I notice that there is Xeroform dressing stuck to my stomach and open wounds, so I’m probably still having skin grafts done. They really liked the skin on my stomach and right thigh, so they kept coming back for more and the donor sites are a nice, bright, sensitive red. Also, I’ve got a sheet over me, which indicates I’m still open and pretty much naked (humiliated).
Finally, someone else is shaving me, which means my right arm is not working at this time. My shoulder appears to be wasting and I’m beginning to look like a concentration camp survivor. I won’t have the pallid, Auschwitz look for another month or so. A little further down the road, I will be able to drag my right arm onto my chest with my left, prop it up, and shave myself. Yes, those were three of the most memorable months of my life and there may be some life lessons in there for others.
And some newer entries have crept up as well. “Sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis were very rare in previous eras, and, now, it’s not that they’re common, but they’re much more common than they used to be,”
Here’s an informative article, not only for those interested in the diagnosis and treatment of the flesh-eating bacteria, but plenty of other diseases.