|Tracy Nesbit's Story|
Note: Sadley, Tracy lost her life August 2004. She touched the lives of many and will be greatly missed...
My name is Tracy Nesbit, I was 34 and the mother of three small children, ages 6, 7 and 9 at the time of my illness. My survivor story is much like the others on the survivor page, although each is slightly different. On or about Friday, June 21, 2002, I began to have what I thought were flu symptoms, including body aches, fever, and fatigue. The body aches were primarily in my lower torso and legs. I began home treatment over the weekend of June 21 through June 23, taking Tylenol and Advil, looking for relief for pain and fever. Nothing helped. Over the weekend, my legs got stiffer and my fever remained over 101,despite the home remedies. Monday morning, June 24th, I noticed that I had several red spots on my right thigh and hip and on my left hip. That evening, my fever had gone up to about 103 and I was not able to walk without a lot of pain. I went to the Emergency room for the first time. The triage personnel placed me in a pediatric treatment room to treat my fever, while not recognizing my complaint of severe pain and stiffness in my legs. When the attending nurse saw my condition, I was moved to a regular treatment room. The doctor took blood and urine, did a chest x-ray and said that my white count was very high, and that he thought he might admit me, but instead, he sent me home on antibiotics and pain medicines, and released to follow up with my primary care physician.
On Tuesday, June 25, I tried to set up an appointment with my primary care physician, but couldn't get in until Wednesday, June 26th at 3:00pm. I showed up on time, but had to wait until nearly 5:00pm-closing time. The doctor was in a big hurry, and NEVER bothered to look at the horrible welts on my legs, hips and buttocks, but instead looked at the records that had been faxed from the ER and insisted I had pneumonia. I knew better!! He left the room, and sent his nurse in to give me a shot of rocephin in my hip, right where my welts were located. I cried and BEGGED them to give me the shot in the arm, due to the pain. Since the doctor never bothered to look at the welts, I asked the nurse to go get the doctor and to have him come look at them, and to let me get the shot in the arm. She came back in, said that by law, she had to give me the shot in the hips, and I didn't argue. I was much too ill to argue. I figured if I could suffer through the shot, the antibiotic was sure to help whatever was going on with my hips and legs. When I went to sign out of the doctor's office, the doctors had left, the lights were turned off, and only a couple of people were left in the office. No wonder the doctor didn't come back in…he was gone! I left the office barely able to walk, and in tears.
By Friday, June 28th, I was so very ill. I went BACK to the Emergency room, and saw the same doctor I saw the first time. The welts had grown much larger than they were before, they had begun to change color and appearance, and the pain was unbearable. I continued to run a high fever and was very ill. This time, the doctor called in an on call dermatologist, and did blood work once again. Both doctors examined my legs and hips. They diagnosed me with a skin disease. They put me on steroids, and asked me to see a dermatologist at my earliest convenience. Again, I had to wait through an entire weekend without any help. I was in horrible pain, with nowhere to turn. I couldn't even make an appointment with the dermatologist until Monday morning. I thought I was going to die in pain.
Monday morning, I called and made an appt. with the dermatologist. They couldn't see me until Tuesday morning. They made plans to take biopsies of the blistered sites. I kept thinking, I can make it one more day, I can make it one more day. By Tuesday morning, I woke up, and I pulled the covers back, and felt dampness. I looked down, and the blisters had filled with a dark black fluid, several of them popped and were draining all over the bed. I called my husband, Bo to come look. He came from across the room, and began to vomit. The smell of death filled the room. I begged him to take me to the emergency room for the 4th time, instead of taking me to the dermatologist. I couldn't stand the thought of anyone touching me and taking a biopsy of these sites without knocking me out first.
By the time I got to the Emergency room this time, my blood pressure dropped to 80/30. The on call doctor knew EXACTLY what I had. Where was this doctor the other 3 times I had been trying to get help?? He knew that this hospital couldn't handle Necrotizing Fasciitis, and immediately called a bigger hospital several miles away. They immediately made arrangements to transport me by ambulance to the other hospital, to get me into the hyperbaric chamber and then into surgery immediately after that.
I was transferred, and the surgeon met me at the door. He told my husband that they couldn't risk putting me in the hyperbaric chamber now, I was too close to death. He told Bo that I only had an hour or two left, and that they had to get me into surgery immediately. He even suggested Bo kiss me goodbye, and that he be ready for the facts….most people with this disease don't make it. I was rushed into surgery, and Bo called our church.
To make a long story short, over 60 people from our church filled the surgical waiting room, praying for me through the night. I fought life and death for several days. Immediately after surgery, they took me straight into the hyperbaric chamber for 3 hours. I spent the next two weeks in there, two times a day, 3 hours at a time. I believe that this is what saved my life and kept the disease from spreading more than it did.
I started coming to, about a week after the surgery. Still on the ventilator, and feeding tubes. I looked down to find that my leg, hips and rear end were missing down to the bone in places. Huge hunks of meat were taken out, and I was changed forever. I won't lie, I cried when I saw the new me, but I am so very grateful to be alive.
I spent 3 months in the hospital. I had a few debridement surgeries, skin graphs, fought several infections, including pseudomonas, which plagued me constantly. I need blood transfusions twice, and the bandage changes were horrible. Since I had wounds on both hips, I had to lay on one open wound while they changed the bandages on the other hip. The pain was unbearable and the anxiety got out of hand. I began to shake each time I saw a doctor or nurse come in the room for bandage change. They also had to pour acid in the wounds to keep the pseudomonas infection under control. I finally got to go home at the end of September, but with open wounds that still needed closing. I had to wait until my protein levels were high enough, so that they could do the surgeries. I had just quit eating. I had a nurse come in each morning to change my bandages, and Bo changed them each night.
October 16, my plastic surgeon finally was able to close all the wounds and did a wonderful job. I go back to see him in April, and we will talk about how to put humpty back together again. I'm anxious to start this process and get it all put behind me.
At the moment, I'm healed pretty good. I have had to fight with several infections and a couple of bouts of cellulitis in the last few months, but nothing that has been severe. I still use a cane to walk, and sometimes I use a wheelchair if I am going out and facing a long walk (like the mall or something) but for the most part, I am doing very well. I tire easily, but I'm sure my energy will come in time. God has been good to my family and I, and I am very thankful for my life.
Lexington, South Carolina
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December 9, 2004