Ann Mertins



My necrotizing fasciitis story starts with 3 adorable little foster puppies.  I was volunteering for a dog rescue organization, and took on 3 little rambunctious puppies.  Prior to them being placed in their forever homes, I needed to microchip them.  I had just finished micro chipping them, so I set the large microchip needle on the kitchen table.  The needle started to roll off the table, and the puppies were right there, eager to put anything in their mouths.  So, I stopped the needle with my leg, and poked myself in the thigh in the process.  I immediately washed the puncture wound, applied some antibiotic ointment, and covered the wound with a band aid.

That evening, I was surprised at how bad the tiny pinprick hurt.  I took some Tylenol and went to bed.  I didn’t sleep well, because I had such severe chills and discomfort.  The next morning my temperature was 101 despite consistently taking Tylenol.  When I realized the wound was draining quite a bit, I went to the local urgent care.  I was given a shot of the antibiotic Rocephin, some oral antibiotics, and was told I had cellulitis.

The next day, I was actually feeling worse, and the drainage was increasing.  The Urgent Care has a 72 hour policy that if your signs/symptoms don’t improve, they will see you again at no cost.   So I went back in.  Again, I was given another shot of Rocephin, and another oral antibiotic to take in addition to the one prescribed the prior day.  The doctor took a permanent marker and drew around the reddened softball-sized area around my puncture wound.  She instructed me that if the red area grew past the marker line, I was to go into the ER.

About an hour later, the red area was now slightly past the marker line.  Being the stubborn nurse that I am, I decided to wait a little longer.  Another hour passed, and the red area was now about 2 inches past the marker line.  I didn’t want to rush to the ER, but my husband at the time convinced me to go in.

At the ER, I was given pain medication and sent for a CT scan of my right thigh.  Almost immediately after returning from the CT scan to my room, the ER doctor returned.  She looked as white as a ghost, and informed me that the general surgeon was on his way in, that I’d be going to surgery that evening and then to the ICU.  I remember looking at her dumbfounded, and saying “You must be in the wrong room, I just have a small puncture wound on my leg”.  She asked if I ever heard of necrotizing fasciitis.  I said it sounded kinda familiar from nursing school, but that was over 10 years ago.  She then explained the “flesh eating disease” to me.

About 20 minutes later, the surgeon arrived.  He explained the seriousness of my situation.  He then had me sign a surgical consent that read:
“Irrigation and debridement right thigh wound VS. amputation”.  He said he would try everything to save my leg, but he couldn’t guarantee anything.  He wanted to prepare me to become an amputee.

I woke up in my ICU room in the middle of the night.  The first thing I did was whip my covers back to see if I still had my leg.  I did!
The next morning the surgeon informed me I wasn’t out of the woods yet, and I was going to be going back to surgery in a few minutes for more “cleaning out” of my wound, and placement of a wound vac.

I woke up after my 2nd surgery in my ICU room.  This time I awoke in sheer panic.  I couldn’t breathe.  I buzzed the nurses and they checked my oxygen levels.  I was 40% (and dropping) on room air, and 60% on 10L of oxygen.  An x-ray and then CT scan of my lungs showed I had pneumonia and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).  The leg infection was ravaging my body.  I don’t remember much after that for several days.  I do, however, remember what Heaven was like!  It was the most amazing experience.  The colors were so vivid, the temperature was perfect, and I saw my dogs who had died before me.  I remember waking up from this beautiful experience with doctors and medical staff surrounding me.  I recall being so mad that I woke up from this amazing place I was in.

A few more days passed and I went in for my 3rd and last surgery.   The doctor was surprisingly able to close my massive leg wound without requiring skin grafts. My surgeon truly is a miracle worker!

It’s been a year-and-a-half since I contracted NF.  Every single day, I look at my scar and am proud of myself for being the warrior that I am!