|Tony Juliano's Survivor Story|
January 6th 2007, I went on a ride with a bunch of fellow motorcycle enthusiasts.
I started feeling poorly about 1 hour into the ride, and when we stopped
for a break about half way into our planned 300 mile route, I decided
to call it quits and head home. A friend left with me, and by the time
I got home, I was white as a ghost. My Girlfriend met me as I pulled into
the garage, and I told her that I had a fever and was going to lie down.
I didn't think much of it at the time, just thought I was coming down
with the flu or possibly caught the strep throat that both my girlfriend
and daughter had recently recovered from. The following day, my fever
continued (101 degrees) but was under control with doses of Motrin and
bed rest. Since it was Sunday, a trip to the Doctor was out of the question,
and since I still did not develop the sore throat, I was sure it was the
Monday morning dawned with my fever now spiking to 103 degrees, I called in sick to work and phoned my Doctor. She told me to come right on in, but I was not comfortable riding as I felt very woozy. I informed her I would have to wait until Tuesday when my girlfriend could take me in. The Doc didn't like this, but I insisted it was ok (dumb move). When my girlfriend arrived home at around 6:30 she freaked, and insisted we go to the ER as my fever was now registering 104 degrees and a bright red spot about the size of my fist had developed on my lower left leg. This spot was very hot to the touch, and appeared on the same leg I had injured in a bike accident back in August. When we go to the ER it was crowded with sick people, so we settled down to what we thought would be a long wait. We were there about 20 minutes when I suddenly felt light-headed. I stood up to tell the nurse and I immediately blacked out. This is the last I would be conscious for almost 2 weeks.
The ER people were baffled as now my fever reached almost 105 degrees and my blood pressure started to plummet. They called in an infectious disease specialist who upon seeing the red, hot-spot on my leg, traced it's outline in black marker. She also noticed a sunburn like rash on my left arm. I was not responding to any antibiotics and my condition worsened. After an hour the hot-spot had expanded an inch outside the marked up area in all directions. This was all the Doctor needed to see, she immediately diagnosed Necrotizing Fasciitis (the Flesh Eating Virus) and they wheeled me down into emergency surgery. This disease is absolutely wicked, is almost 40% fatal and almost always is accompanied by limb amputation. It was later described by my surgeon as "Trying to hold back a freight train with tissue paper".
I was lucky as the Specialist's quick action saved my leg from amputation, and they surgically removed 2 large areas of flesh from my lower leg. They informed my girlfriend that the surgery was successful and that I would be moved into the ICU in about an hour. No such luck. I was not coming out of the anesthesia, and my lungs started to fail. They rushed me into ICU and put me on life support. An hour later my kidneys started to fail, I was in complete Sepsis, Toxic Shock, caused by the overwhelming amount of toxins released into my bloodstream by the bacteria.
By Wednesday morning I was experiencing multi-organ failure and my "Apache Score" (a grading system used in Intensive Care Units to access mortality rates) indicated that I had less than a 10% chance of survival. The Chief of Staff informed my girlfriend of the situation and told her that there was one last thing that could be tried. There is a drug called Xigris (cost's $6800.00 a dose) that sometimes pulls people out of severe sepsis. The drawback is that it also sometimes kills people. This last ditch effort was recommended however, because the Doctor felt I had only hours to live at that point anyway. They administered the drug, along with 4 million units of antibiotics, and within 10 hours things started to improve.
I awoke from unconsciousness on the following Monday, 50 lbs lighter and withered like a raisin. I could not hold up my arms for longer than 5 seconds, they felt like they weighed a ton. But I gathered strength quickly and improved everyday. The nurses would repack my wounds twice a day (they were both down to the bone), a truly excruciating ordeal.
I was released from the hospital on January 23rd, and was put on a wound vacuum to facilitate the healing of my leg. Nurses continue to visit me at home 3 times a week to change my dressings and keep the wound vac going. I expect to be back on a bike by the beginning of May.
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March 3, 2007