Katherine Antonini


My story began innocently enough. I was in a very serious car accident two years ago, a head on collision with a massive oak tree. I was driving a Ford Explorer and the front left portion of the vehicle crumbled and came right up to the driver’s seat. Instead of just breaking my ankle, it took my talus bone and broke it into 12 pieces and displaced it as well. I also broke my tibia and fibula in two places, both with compound breaks that came right out of the skin.

For the next two years, I had various surgeons try to save my leg resulting in nine surgeries and putting on an external fixator device. Throughout the two-year period, I kept getting infections in my leg because the first surgeon who performed my first surgery in the trauma unit would not listen to me when I kept telling him that I thought I had a bone infection. He kept dismissing me telling me that it was normal for my leg to be swollen to twice its normal size, to be red and inflamed and to hurt. He told me that I had suffered a major trauma to the leg and it was expected for it to be this way. I finally consulted another surgeon who did a bone scan which confirmed that I had a major infection in the bone that had been going on for a very long time as it had compromised 4 inches off the bottom of my tibia and fibula! Hence the need for the external fixator device.

After five months of having the external fixator device on and having to adjust the struts on it twice a day in order to lengthen my bones (extremely painful!), I finally had it removed and was ecstatic because now I would begin physical therapy and start walking again!

This is where I tell my story based upon everyone else’s recollection because I have no memory of what happened next.

Apparently, my 11-year-old autustic son found me slumped over unconscious in my wheelchair one Friday and sent a picture of me to his father. My husband immediately came home and tried rousing me. I woke up, but was totally incoherent and making absolutely no sense. He called an ambulance and the EMTs thought that I might have accidentally overdosed on my pain medication. My husband counted out my pills, which were in my favor, but the EMTs gave me Narcan anyway. Apparently, it turns out I am allergic to Narcan, because I had a horrible reaction to it in the ambulance and almost died!

I was taken to the nearest hospital where they performed a series of tests, including an MRI of my brain and a spinal tap. They finally determined that I was in septic shock from a massive infection in my leg and they prepared to have me airlifted to the hospital where my team of doctors that have been treating my leg would be waiting for me. Prior to sending me to the hospital, they removed two liters of pus from my leg.

I was placed in a medically induced coma and airlifted to the hospital where the surgeons told my husband that my leg had to be amputated or I would die. Of course, the decision was made to have my leg amputated. I was in the ICU for three days and then three days after that, I had to have a revision surgery performed to remove more infected bone from my stump and close up the wound since they were not able to close it up due to the severe inflammation as well as so much pus. I will never, for the rest of my life, forget the pain when they had to remove the bandage from my stump when the end of it had not been closed up. The bandage had dried up onto the wound, which was completely open with bone, muscle and all nerve endings exposed! They were not even able to wet the bandage to help ease it off. They just had to pull it off dry! I prayed to God to let me pass out.

I remember the nurses telling me that there was one other patient recently that had gone straight home from the hospital because he was determined not to go to rehab. I made myself a promise that I would be the second patient to do the same thing! For the next four days all I did was practice using the walker every chance I got and transferring to and from bed to chair, dressing myself, etc. Finally, my doctors told me they would be discharging me and asked me what rehab facility I wanted to go to. I told them I want to go straight home and felt that I would be able to. They told me it was up to the occupational therapists to make that decision. After showing the therapists what I was capable of, and telling them that I had spent five weeks in rehab following my accident, they felt I was fine to go home. Determination does pay off!

It has now been a little over eight weeks since my amputation. (Sepsis and Amputations) I go for follow up visits to my surgeon every other week and I have yet to be referred to a prosthetist because my incision just does not want to heal fully. I have one spot where it keeps looking infected. Every time I see a little bit of red or what appears to be pus discharging from it, I demand that my doctor put me on antibiotics because I am terrified of the sepsis returning.

Being a sepsis survivor is not a label I would wish on anyone. I live in constant fear of it happening again. Every time my back hurts me, I think it has returned. Every time my head feels too heavy to hold up, I think it has returned. Every time I see my skin turn red around the incision, I think it has returned. I used to be so independent and carefree. Now I am housebound and afraid to go out anywhere by myself. I don’t want to be in a car, whether it is driving by myself or as a passenger, Because I am terrified of another car accident. I am tired of living in fear every day. I want my old life back.