|Robert L. Smith's Survivor Story|
|As written by Mrs. Robert L. Smith|
This happened about three years ago. We live in Apalachicola, FL, which is a very small town in the Panhandle of Florida. My husband began complaining about his hip bothering him. It got worse and worse over several days time. Finally I prevailed upon him to see our doctor. He was diagnosed with arthritis. The pain got worse and worse. One morning he told me that when he had to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, he had to crawl in there. Obviously this upset me quite a bit and I immediately went to our doctor and still quite upset and in tears told him SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. So he referred him to a doctor in Panama City, 65 miles away. We were to see this doctor in the emergency room, which is what we did. He had to be taken in a wheelchair. When he came out, he was walking and I was thrilled. That doctor had given him a couple of cortisone shots in the hip. This produced immediate relief. The following morning however, he was right back where he had been.
I had pending surgery on my foot and when I went for pre-op, I asked that orthopedic doctor if he would see my husband as I was very concerned about him. He said he would be glad to. So back over to Panama we went. This doctor sent him for an MRI. The doctor called and said he would like for my husband to come over to the hospital and be admitted overnight as he would like to do a biopsy. First thing I thought of was cancer, when you hear the word biopsy.
I had had my surgery by then so I called a friend that very day to please take my husband to the hospital in Panama City. I didn't tell my husband about admission to the hospital, I just told him that the doctor wanted to see him right away. Otherwise, he would not have gone. So he was admitted and they began the biopsy and ran into a huge mass of infection behind the hip bone. They weren't sure what it was until lab tests were done.
We can't thank that doctor enough because once he learned what the problem was, he called in a wonderful team of doctors. They performed surgery and put a drain in that area of the hip. My children came and they took turns staying with him at night. I couldn't drive and had to have someone drive me back and forth every day. One night my older daughter was staying with him and during the night she noticed a dome like swelling in the area of the collar bone. The first doctor that came in that morning she pointed this out to him. The other doctors were called in and they rushed him to surgery.
When the surgeon spoke to us after that surgery, it sounded very grim and honestly I believe the doctors did not give much hope for his recovery. He was placed in ICU on a ventilator and a feeding tube. He also was in isolation. He probably stayed in ICU 10 days to 2 weeks before moving him to a step down unit. He was still in isolation and we had to wear gloves when in his room. He was kept on morphine for a long time. I don't know how many times they took him down to clean out those two places, his hip and the area of the collar bone. He had to be sedated each time as it was very painful. The doctors told my children that the family should be called. But we were all there anyway. I made arrangements for him to receive the Last Rites and just expected the worst.
He stayed in the hospital a month and we had home health care for a few months but he made a complete recovery which still amazes me. I truly believe it was a miracle.
Sadly though, about 6 months ago he was diagnosed with plasma cell myeloma. We know that the best we can hope for in this situation is remission. He is doing fine and has already received 5 rounds of chemo and he has had no side effects. He is doing well is under the care of an oncologist. I don't know if this disease may have some relation to his previous illness but one doctor mentioned that to me saying, "I wonder if this could have anything to do with the Necrotizing Faciitis?" So it will be a matter of waiting to see how this plays out. I figure he has a pretty strong constitution and remission will come about.
I thought some part of this might be of use to your organization. Of course we had no idea of what this disease was when it was first diagnosed. One of my sons got on the internet and found your organization and we learned a good deal about it. He did not know of any injury to his hip to start with. He was given 4 different kinds of antibiotics during his treatment. All at the same time. I don't remember what those were now. But I'm sure you know all of those that are used in the treatment of this ailment.
I want to thank you for your presence. Because of your organization, we learned so much.
Mrs. Robert L. Smith
Copyright © 1997-2003 National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation (NNFF)
All Rights Reserved.
April 9, 2003