- Posted May 18, 2012 by
Canada, British Columbia
I survived Flesh Eating Disease (Necrotising Fasciitis)...barely
I know what Aimee Copeland is going through. My story began a few days before Christmas 2008. I was putting up decorations and pricked my hand with a pine needle of all things. I did not give it another thought until dinner with what turned out to be a medical doctor dinner party with my wife at the University.
We arrived and by the time we started to eat, my hand was in tremendous pain. Fortunately I had a dozen Dr.s to take a look at the infection all of whom said give him a round of antibiotics in the morning and certainly nothing much to worry about.
We had antibiotics at home and by the morning it was far worse. I couldn't believe this minor prick was causing so much trouble and quite frankly I did not want to bother with the hospital because it was Christmas and who wants to be in there with a minor if not painful pine prick!
When I arrived the Dr. said he would put me on a powerful antibiotic, Vancomycin. After a 4 hour drip I'd be fine and good to go home, I wasn't and in fact by now the swelling had moved up my arm considerably. He said I was in big trouble and within minutes I was rushed to ICU with a suspected case of NF. I had dozens of Dr's and Nurses surrounding me as I slid in and out of consciousness.
What I remember most was my 5 year old daughter crying constantly and staff starting to turn the conversation around to heaven and all the good people up there! Every hour a nurse would come in and take a Sharpie to trace out where the infection was headed. You can see the Sharpie lines on my swollen hand in the picture.
The medical team was frantically trying various cocktails of antibiotics to see which one was working, none were.
I was pretty well out of it and barely conscious. By the time the infection had moved up to my chest the Dr.s were preparing to amputate my entire left arm and a good part of my upper chest in a last ditch effort to save my life.
I overheard the Dr. state to my wife that realistically I was looking at a less than 30% chance of survival and "preparations" should start to be made.
Christmas day arrived. We celebrated Christmas next to my bed. Needless to say it was a sombre event. I couldn't eat the hospital Turkey dinner so we laughed a little bit about how bad the food was.
As my family was preparing to stay with me that night, perhaps my last, a nurse noticed a "very" slight change in my Sharpie line rate of infection. They brought in a few Dr.s and then some specialists were called in. Many were at home of course for the holidays.
They doubled up on the latest combo of antibiotics and sure enough the swelling began to withdraw, ever so slowly. 4 weeks later I was discharged with a still dark blue hand barely functional. Within a few years I had, despite my Doctor's opinion regained full use of my arm and hand. The after effects of the antibiotics caused another set of problems that took about two years to resolve but that was nothing after what I went through that Christmas. In some ways it was my best Christmas I have ever had as you can read further on.
I consider myself very lucky but perhaps not for the reason you might think. I was lucky because surviving that nightmare gave me a chance to look at life quite differently and all of a sudden you realize how lucky you are even to live, not many things can get me down since those dark days, thank you.
While writing this story my wife reminded me that they had exaggerated the 25% to 30% survival number for my benefit in order to give me a little more hope but in reality it was closer to just under 5% survival given the disease proximity to my heart.
Percy von Lipinski
With thanks to the medical team at Saint Paul's Hospital here in Vancouver, BC, Canada and of course the wife that no doubt saved my life. There is no way I would have gone in without her pushing me to do so.