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Mark K.

Mark K.
Survivor

Wow, where to start… I had a life of being a federal first responder. We laughed and got to think we’re invincible since we’re always responding to someone else’s situation. Well, after taking a co-workers car out for lunch to have it checked by a mechanic, I bent over to pull the hood opening. I felt a little click in my back and within two days, major pain and difficulty walking. Had an MRI and found a slipped disc.

A neurosurgeon looked at the X-Ray and said, several slipped discs and needed surgery immediately or risk paralysis. Had the surgery and was fine after a day or two. However, over the next three weeks, I had follow on check ups but never had any blood tests to see if there was any post operative infection nor was I ever prescribed antibiotics and I was high risk being a type 2 diabetic (under control before surgery). (Sepsis and Surgery, Sepsis and Diabetes)

At about the three week period after surgery, I barely remember my speaking with my family on a Sunday (they later told me I was slurring my speech), and don’t remember much except all of a sudden it was Tuesday and I had to go to the bathroom, was standing at the doorway to the bathroom and looking at the toilet a few feet away, but just not thinking I could walk there. I ended up laying down on the carpet in the hallway. That’s it.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I was told that the fire, sheriff and federal authorities all showed up at my house and ended up breaking in to find me semi-conscious on the hallway floor. I was rushed to the local ER but they didn’t have a neurosurgeon on staff and I was transferred to another hospital that did. I remember I was told I had MRSA and was 96% septic. (Sepsis and MRSA) I should not have been alive.

They loaded me up with a swimming pool of antibiotics and were not going to tell anyone if I was going to survive until they were confident (3 days later). Anyone who visited had to wear a full gown and mask. I remember I had a ton of popsicles. I was in there for 6 weeks and had three follow on debride (clean) surgeries opening my lower back to over 9″ long and 6″ wide. I don’t remember much and couldn’t move any part of my body.

There’s a large gap of time I don’t remember but I remember being awake when the doctors made their rounds and I remember the resident telling everyone I was not supposed to survive and even more amazing, I had no internal organ damage. And they were going to do some cognitive testing to see if my brain function had been compromised. After 6 weeks, I was transferred to a con home a few miles south of the hospital. I was there for two days. The first day wasn’t bad. I was near a window and there was someone else in the room. He was discharged and the next night, I found I was having a hard time breathing. I used to curl 80 pounds with each arm, now, I couldn’t even lift my arm. All of my muscles had atrophied. I pushed the call button endlessly and after 40 minutes, a little woman came in drinking a soda. I told her I was having a hard time breathing and needed to go to the ER. She said she’d get the nurse. I never saw her again.

After 30 minutes, admittedly I started to panic. Somehow, I was able to reach my cell phone and dial 9-1-1. I’m still not sure how I had the strength to do that, but the fire department came and took me to the ER where they found I had fluid building in the pleural space on both lungs. I was told it was caused by not moving for so long. I was readmitted to the hospital and was there for another 2 weeks before I was transferred to a rehab unit at a hospital closer to my home. I was there for another 3 weeks. Being the guy who rescued others and now, had to learn how to stand, walk and feed myself was traumatizing. There’s so much more and a lot of questions that are yet unanswered.

When I finally got home to my own bed, I couldn’t sleep, had nightmares when I finally fell asleep in the mornings from sheer exhaustion; and it’s now two years later and I’ve been working on regaining my strength. There are a few things that have also transpired. As a result of the infection, my left eye (retina) was infected and had to be reattached three times. I have limited sight and even then, I was told I shouldn’t have had any sight due to the infection. Both shoulders have a torn (melted) ligament due to the infection and instead of surgery. I try to compensate with weights to strengthen muscle, but there is still limited range. And lastly, my back, where it all started is no longer a 9″ long x 6″ wide crevasse after three surgeries to clean out the damaged tissue, but a 3″ scar and still causes some pain and discomfort when walking stairs, standing or sitting. My recliner is where I seem to find peace. I admit I have PTSD from all of this and won’t get back the time lost from family, friends, travel and having to use all of my paid time off (PTO). (Sepsis ands PTSD) And still, having to go through all of the medical bills (even those covered by insurance) waiting for me when I got home in a pile of mail. I have flashbacks and find myself tearing up whenever something reminds me of that time. I see that commercial about “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” and now tear up because I know first hand what that’s like…to be helpless and laying there…. I had called several lawyers about the doctor who first performed the original surgery and the infection they gave me and never tested me for any blood infections or gave me antibiotics. But was told doctors won’t testify against doctors and it was losing battle.

This Saturday (April 10, 2021) is my 2 year anniversary of being found barely alive in my house. I still look at the carpet where I was found…..and cry. Some things I remember, makes me cry. Other things, I’d like to forget but to this day, my heart races whenever I see a hospital and that’s a complete change from the guy who for 20+ years would set them up and manage them in federal disasters. But I’m alive and cheated death twice.

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