|April 21, 1918 - December 6, 2007|
This is dedicated to the memory of my mother Mrs. Vesta Nichols.
Mrs. Nichols journey began at the age of 81 in November of 1999 with high fever and intermittent mental confusion that began two days after the funeral of her younger sister, whose death had been rather sudden. We were not surprised that she had a "flu-like illness" because of the tremendous stress and lack of sleep for the past two weeks. She began experiencing tremendous pain in her legs and feet, so I made an appointment with her doctor that day, but she wouldn't or couldn't move fast enough to make it to the office before her doctor left. Of course, she did not want to go to the hospital, but finally was dragged there under great protest.
Things began to fall apart at the hospital. In the emergency room a high white cell count and fever gained her immediate admission. A shot of Demerol relieved the pain, but also dropped her blood pressure to levels that then gained her admission to the intensive care unit. She was in respiratory arrest by time we were pushing the bed off the elevator to enter the unit. While this was happening, sheets of skin began to drop off her feet and legs. Empirically, several antibiotics were started, and two days later, narcotizing fasciitis was confirmed by the culture results.
Except for some osteoporosis of the spine, several allergies, and some well-controlled glaucoma, Mrs. Nichols was in excellent health - no diabetes, no hypertension, perfect weight, and a cholesterol better than a teenager's. Her good health helped her survive the next 5 weeks in the hospital. Doctors called her "The Miracle Lady." She had multiple skin grafts, but about three months later, these began to fail, and she was left with the terrible choice of above knee amputations or daily dressing changes. She chose the latter even though it meant often suffering nearly constant pain, and finding unique ways to contain the constant wound drainage.
My father became her personal nurse, becoming an expert at the dressings, and designed and sewed soft fabric boots to fit over those dressings. They went everywhere together, and he helped her maintain her passionate community and church work. Maybe it was the stress of being a caregiver, or maybe it was simply being 85 years old, but my father suddenly died in 2002. Of course, other caregivers and I filled the void, and Mrs. Nichols continued to live an active life. Although she needed a wheelchair when she was out, she was still able to take care of her activities of daily living because she could stand on feet. She also was determined to find some way to heal her feet, and she contacted NNFF and many others, hoping something was out there.
In July 2006 she developed an infection in one of her feet that sensitive to very few antibiotics. She did well for the next year. Then the infections started coming back, and she was hospitalized four times between July and October 2007. During the last hospitalization, she said, "Enough is enough. I am going home." She was discharged on IV antibiotics for another three weeks, but then began to have a series of small strokes. On December 6, God took Mrs. Nichols home, to suffer no more. She will be eulogized December 14 in Springfield, IL.
I have asked for friends and family to make donations to NNFF, in memory of the valiant fight of Mrs. Nichols. Thank you for your great efforts in the battle these patients must wage.
Victoria Nichols-Johnson, MD
Springfield, IL USA
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December 16, 2007