Jennifer's Story

I´ve thought about writing my story for a long time now, and I have always decided it wasn´t for anyone else to hear. Now I feel I want it read for my own reasons, mainly closure and to inform anyone who wants to listen.

I was out living on my own for a while when I was struck with Meningitis, I was living with 2 roommates and working full time. I started to feel a runny nose and I hacking cough, which made me think I was catching a cold. When I started to feel so sick that I couldn´t go out with my friends, I decided to stay in one night. My friend came over and watched a movie with me until 3 in the morning, and I went to sleep. I went to work the next day, feeling under the weather, and came home after to rest, I think I stopped a few places. I came home and went to bed on a Saturday night, and sometime around 3pm Sunday, my roommates called 911. They had come in and tried to wake me, they saw my fingers and lips turning blue and called immediately.

I was rushed to the hospital Sunday afternoon and the ER doctor had on idea what was wrong with me. I was getting worse and worse until there was a shift change and the new doctor saw the formation of purple spots on me and knew right away I was in trouble.

This doctor began a barrage of treatments while I went into a coma. He informed my parents that there was an experimental drug somewhere in Ontario I believe that he believed would help me. The doctor went ahead and contacted the necessary people to have the drug shipped to me under a mercy grant, meaning it was not for legal use in Canada. I would be a test subject, and rather than have the 50/50 shot of getting a placebo, the mercy grant assured me the drug. It was sent to me and my parents had an hour to decide whether or not to give it to me.

My mother says it was agonizing, my father was scared out of his wits. They decided to sign the papers and as soon as they did, awaiting nurses rushed into my room in ICU and administered some 12 IV bags. I am told I blew up from all the liquid to look like I weighed 200lbs, and I weigh 120lbs. Also my eyes began to bleed and my legs were turning black by this time, as well as some fingers on my left hand. For days I remained in the coma until 4 days after I was admitted, I regained consciousness.

They found out I was conscious by the ventilator tube I had pulled out of my own esophagus. My parents were notified at 3:30 am on Thursday that I was awake and rushed in to see me. They were delighted. I had family come in from Quebec and they were there first thing in the morning. The first thing I remember is seeing one of them at the end of my bed and thinking, "uh oh, why are they here?"

I spent two weeks in ICU in total, making sure I had completely kicked it and wasn´t contagious. I remember two of my best friends got to see me, as there are no visitors allowed in ICU unless immediate family. I had started to realize while in ICU that my hand was black, and my legs were too. I watch enough medical shows to know that means amputation, and I started to become upset. I had not realized yet how very close I came to not making it at all, and I think I expected to make it through without any after effects.

As soon as I left ICU I was put on a burn unit, I don´t know why, and they scheduled me for my hand surgery to amputate my pinky and most of my pointer and middle fingers on my left hand. That was completed and I was moved to a plastic surgery unit where I was to await my foot amputation. My legs were in such bad shape and getting worse all the time, my toes and most of my feet were black and curled, like mummified. Above my ankle was tissue and muscle either black, or raw. I did look like I had been very badly burned, and the sight of my own legs horrified me. I became used to it and started helping to dress my own wounds so as to minimize the pain. I was put on an inflatable bed because the pain was intense. I was in pain all the time and made the nurses´ lives a living hell. I think they drew straws to see who was unlucky enough to get my room for a shift.

I was told my feet would not be saved and they would have to amputate below both knees. I didn´t argue, I was quite passive by this point and only wanted the pain to stop. I didn´t care that I was going to lose my legs, just that the pain was going to go away. The surgery was completed and I was still in pain because of it, but less pain. From then on all I had to do was to heal, so I could get on my prosthetics. I was in the hospital for a total of 2 months and released a little early so I could finish healing at home.

It took almost 3 months and I was finally healed enough to try to learn to walk. From the first day to the time they let me take them on my own and not come back was another 3 months and I was proficient on the prosthetics. This all happened when I was 20 years old, and began in April of 2000. With the entire ordeal and everything I lost, the disease only took 8 months from my life. I got a job, got my car back, and now I work full time again. Full circle in less than a year and I couldn´t feel better about myself. I used to have a problem with guilt, wondering why others on this page died and I didn´t.

With help from a lot of people who mean the world to me, and the tremendous love from my family, I don´t ask myself that anymore.

 

Phone or Fax - (519) 664-0244
or Toll-free 1-800-643-1303
E-mail - fund@meningitis.ca
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P.O. Box 28015 R.P.O. Parkdale
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6J8
Charitable Registration # 89751 8429 RR0001
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