|Allison Herman's Survivor Story|
My name is Allison Herman, and when I was 13, I fell victim to Necrotizing Fasciitis. It started on a Friday afternoon; the day before I'd gone to the dentist to have a near-cavity fixed. That afternoon I was at a friend's, fooling around on the trampoline when I started to feel sick. It was nothing too bad, a headache, chills, stomachache. The things that you'd usually associate with the flu, which is what my mom assumed I had. But merely hours later, that same night, I went into my parent's room to tell my mom that my shoulder hurt. She figured that I'd hurt it on the trampoline, that it was a sprained muscle. But I'd done gymnastics for about 8 or 9 years, I knew what a sprained muscle felt like- not this. So the next day we went to the doctor, where they couldn't seem to diagnose me with anything. They said that it was probably just a virus and that I'd hurt my shoulder on the trampoline, a coincidence. So we went home, hoping that the pain would soon abate. But it only got worse, and by that afternoon I couldn't move. It got to the point where it hurt so bad that I couldn't breathe right, I couldn't wiggle my fingers without being in enormous amounts of pain. So we went back to the doctor, where they took me to X-rays. They twisted my arm into so many painful positions that it made me throw up, ending the X-rays then and there. But of course the shots they'd gotten showed nothing wrong, so they suggested we come back in 24 hours if it still hurt. But thankfully, my mom brought me to Children's Hospital Boston instead.
No kid likes hospitals, and I kept telling my mom this as we sat in the waiting room. But all she said was, "This is the best place for you to be right now." It was just me and my mom there; my dad was at home with my grandparents, brothers, aunt and uncle for Passover. After hour of needles, and tests, pain and numb fingers, the doctors excused themselves to talk to my mom outside. There was something they weren't telling me, I knew it. I could tell by the sympathetic stares of the nurses, the look on my mom's face. It was terrifying. She looked like she was seeing a ghost, but I suppose that would've been better than what she'd really been told. Soon they came back in, giving me medicines through an IV. One doctor told me that I should try to get some sleep, but I struggled to stay awake. I was too scared that if I fell asleep, I wouldn't wake up again. Soon enough, my doctors told me that they thought they knew what I had, and that they were taking me to the operating room. They took pictures of my shoulder for a medical website, claiming that people with these disease usually had a rash of some sort, which I didn't. They confirmed that it was my right side that hurt, I told my mom I loved her and the rest of my family. And that was it.
It was a 5 day surgery, and I learned a lot when I woke up. I learned that I'd had a disease called Necrotizing Fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria. I learned that if I'd come any later, I would've lost my arm for sure. And possibly my life. I learned that the bacteria had originated from a strange strand of strep throat. I learned that it'd probably gotten into my body through the cavity. I learned that the disease had been spreading, across my shoulder to the middle of my chest, and halfway down my upper arm. I learned that the disease was deep in my muscle, which saved me. If it had been closer to the skin, it most likely would've killed me before we'd gotten to the hospital. It took a long time for me to be able to comprehend all this, and even now I'm crying as I write this summary. But I'm 15 now. I have two arms. I'm healthy. I defied the odds, and I can do everything I did before.
That's not saying it's easy. I went 13 years being the person that I was, and now I'm someone different. The most obvious is the physical change; the scar. I promised myself that I wouldn't cry when I saw it for the first time, but that's easier said than done. This past December, I had reconstructive surgery to make the scar smaller, and I feel better and better about myself every day. But it's changed me emotionally, too. I'm so much more appreciative of what I have, I try not to fight with my brothers as much, and I tell my parents that I love them every night before I go to bed.
Because who knows what'll happen the next day?
Boston, MA USA
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May 17, 2012