DARCY ALLREAD'S STORY:
My story started with an ingrown hair from shaving. A cyst/boil had formed which wasn’t uncommon for me. I would get one from time to time and once they would burst and drain all would go back to normal. Once this one had burst and drained, I finally felt relieved that the little bit of pain that comes with them would finally be gone. But the next day I just started not feeling well. I work 24 hour shifts as an EMT for a local ambulance company so feeling a little run down throughout my rotation was never anything new. But on the last shift of my rotation the aches, pains, and exhaustion just became too much that I eventually went home about halfway through the shift because I just needed to lay down and sleep. I figured it was the start of the flu because now I was starting to get a fever. I slept off and on from the time I got home, thru the next day, and into the morning of the following day. In between bouts of sleep, I would get into a hot shower because that was the only thing that would make my aching joints feel better. It was then that I noticed that the site of the cyst had turned bright red. I thought “oh great, I didn’t clean it well enough and it’s coming back...”, but it actually felt a little different. Since I didn’t feel well I shrugged it off and went back to bed. Within the next 24 hours, the site of the cyst had become swollen, hot to the touch, and had now spread across my lower abdomen up to just over my right hip. I was doubled over in pain and couldn’t walk from my bathroom to my bed which is maybe 20 ft from each other. I called my husband and told him something wasn’t right and I needed him to come home from work and take me to the urgent care. Once he got home, he had to help me get dressed because I was in so much pain I had barely made it to the bed in my towel. We got to the urgent care and the dr couldn’t even touch my abdomen to examine me due to the pain. They started an IV and he ordered morphine to be given 3 different times and I still could not handle being touched. At that point he said he had given me the max amount of pain medication they could there at the urgent care and that I would need to be transferred to the hospital for stronger pain management and he would also put in an order for a CT of my abdomen to be done there. I had my husband drive me from the urgent care to the hospital (they recommended an ambulance to come pick me up, but I wasn’t about to let my coworkers see me like that!) and once I got to the ER I was given Dilaudid and taken to have the CT done. They started me on 3 different antibiotics, took cultures of the cyst site, and were admitting me for sepsis. I was also starting to go into kidney failure. The surgeon came to talk to me while I was waiting in the ER for a room to open up upstairs and he drew a line around the swollen redness on my abdomen. He said if the swelling exceeds that line, we would most likely have to do surgery to clean out infection, but if swelling starts to go down with just the antibiotics we would re-evaluate at that time. The next morning things seemed like they were getting better. The swelling and redness had gone down some and there was a lot of drainage from the cyst site which felt like the antibiotics were helping to flush out. The surgeon came back to talk and still recommended surgery to which I initially refused. I didn’t see a point in going through all of that when it seemed like the antibiotics were doing the job just fine. Plus, I had never had surgery before and the thought of it terrified me. Within the next 12 hours I turned out to be wrong. The infection had rebound up to and past the blue line the Dr drew on my belly. I reluctantly (and thankfully) agreed to surgery that night. When I came out of that surgery I woke up with a wound vac across my lower abdomen. The dr had the official diagnosis of Necrotizing Fasciitis with a side of MRSA. He told me I would need another surgery within 48 hours to continue cutting away newly necrotic tissue. I was terrified of one surgery and was now being told to prepare for a second. Little did I know, a third was not too far behind (another 48 hours after the second). After the 3rd surgery the dr felt confident all the necrotic tissue was cut away and I was to continue with round the clock IV antibiotics while I was in the hospital. I was admitted for a total of 9 days in an isolation room. Anyone that wanted to come see me had to put a gown and gloves on before entering my room. Before discharge, they placed a PICC line into my arm. I was to continue 1 of the 3 antibiotics, Vancomycin, twice a day while at home for the next 3 weeks along with the wound vac care. Three times a week I would go to the wound clinic to have my wound vac dressings changed by the nurses. I used to think childbirth was the worst pain I would ever experience. I would rather give birth 20 times in a row than to have those wound vac dressings changed again. The Dilaudid I would take prior to my appointments wouldn’t even touch the pain of taking out the old foam. Mondays were the worst because it had the most days since my last appointment on Friday to allow the new granulated tissue to adhere to the foam. But my three nurses were so comforting and patient. We would go at my pace to get everything out. Putting the new foam in wasn’t as bad, but I would come out of those dressing changes looking like I spent the last hour wrestling a bear. After 6 weeks of having the wound vac on, the tissue had surfaced enough to switch to wet to dry dressings that my husband could change at home and I would only need to come to the wound clinic once a week for a wound check. After 3 weeks of the at home dressing changes, my wound was finally closed. I was cleared back to work and also cleared to resume full contact sports again (I play roller derby), but my mind was having a hard time catching up to my body. It was a whirlwind illness and I was having a hard time processing what I had just gone through because it all happened so fast. From March 16, 2017 to May 26, 2017 I had lost me. I went from being a perfectly normal person to almost dying and now being told I could go back to being a perfectly normal person again in a matter of 2 months. Only to feel there is no perfectly normal anymore. I couldn’t go back to being who I was before NF. That girl was gone. The large scar across my stomach won’t let me go back. It’s a constant reminder. I’m now paranoid about every spec of dust. Every door knob. Every patient I come into contact with at work. I wake up from nightmares terrified because I don’t feel the suction of my wound vac anymore and scared to death the infection is just sitting there festering in my wound. It takes a minute to wake up a bit more and realize I’m all healed and it was just a dream. I do have a great support system within my family and friends that have helped me regain some type of normalcy, but in the back of my mind I know since having NF I am forever changed.