Remember last September when I recounted my misadventures in hospitalization, surgeries, hyperbaric treatments and pain? As more and more of my right breast disappeared with each progressive surgery, I worried that I had the dreaded FLESH-EATING BACTERIA. Through the full course of my treatment I contracted practically every bacterial infection known, some of them more than once. I was under the impression, source forgotten, that it was MRSA that was the medical term for the flesh-eating bacteria (and in some cases it is). MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Now, I knew from my college days that staph aureus is one of the most common bacterium known – it’s almost always present nearly everywhere. Normally it’s relatively harmless. When the culture results were finally reported, I think it came back as a strain of Streptococcus. Little did I know at the time….
The biggest concerns that the nurses and doctors had for my recovery were due to the fact that I’m diabetic and a smoker. Neither of those is conducive for healing. Fortunately, my blood sugar levels remained quite low, under 100, nearly each time they were checked. I was on the “patch” while in the hospital for 23 days, so that helped as well.
The nurses and doctors assured me that I didn’t have MRSA while I was in the hospital. My surgeon told me that the reason for the multiple surgeries was that I had necrotizing fasciitis. His delivery was cool, calm and collected. No problem, we’ll just cut off more skin and tissue and I will live happily ever after. Nothing to worry about. After 4 surgeries and what would result in half of my right breast being sliced off, I was sent home.
Following my release, my hyperbaric treatments continued daily for several months. In between I contracted more infections, one of which was MRSA. A co-worker’s husband is a nurse and he told her to assure me that MRSA was nothing to worry about. Knowing it was staph aureus coupled with his reassurance, I didn’t worry and after several more rounds of various and sundry antibiotics, the MRSA was gone. I think it was around October that the infections were gone, and I got the rollicking opportunity for a skin graft. I’ve detailed just how not fun that was in an earlier blog post, so I won’t bore you with more details. The graft took on about 60% of the wound, leaving a decent size open area yet to heal. I had about 12 derma grafts to promote skin growth. Derma grafts are pieces of skin grown in a lab…..grown from the foreskin of some anonymous penis. Those grafts were working until, once again, I contracted another infection. That was cleared up with more antibiotics and the wound was allowed to heal on its own. Finally, after just over 10 months, there is a good chance that my final appointment with the wound care staff will be this coming Wednesday. It looks, to me, as if the skin has finally covered the entire wound. All is nearly right with the world, or is it?
So USA is running promos for their show Royal Pains and in one spot the doctor says something like, “I’m sure it’s NOT necrotizing fasciitis.” Well, after hearing that spot several times, I decided to Google necrotizing fasciitis. Guess what I found? DRUM ROLL, please. Necrotizing fasciitis is none other than………. FLESH-EATING BACTERIA, and the culprit is Streptococcus pyogenes. I read on and discovered that, left untreated, about 70% of people who contract this DIE! Those who survive have lost appendages or limbs, depending upon the location of the infection. Guess I was lucky it was my breast. After all I just look lop-sided in my shirts. No one checks out the breasts of a 61 year woman, so for all intents and purposes, it’s not noticeable. Only the occasional curious cat sees my half eaten breast if they decide to check out what I’m doing in the shower. They just think I’m weird for standing under running water.
If I’m able to get copies of my medical records and ya’ll have really strong stomachs, I’ll share the wonderful photos of the deterioration and recovery of the “wound.” I got a slide show about 2 weeks ago and it brought back all those painful memories. I hadn’t seen just how bad it was in the early stages. From its worst to where I am today is an amazing transformation. If I believed in them, I would count my blessings.
If you're interested in more info on necrotizing fasciitis, check out these links: