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Mike St.Onge

Mike St.Onge
Survivor

Hello, my name is Mike St.Onge. I would like to share parts of my story with you about being a sepsis survivor and a quadramembral amputee. (Sepsis and Amputations)

In 1974, when I was ten years old, I had a sledding accident where I ruptured my spleen and had to have it removed – a splenectomy. (Sepsis and Impaired Immune System) In the 1970s, very little information was given to the patient, or in this instance the patients’ parents, about the seriousness of this procedure and follow up care. They were only told they should bring me to the doctor if I had a cold with a fever.

About a year after the splenectomy my parents were advised that I should be vaccinated because the spleen is part of the immune system and since mine had been removed; it made me more susceptible to illness. Also at that time, there was conflicting information about how often, if at all, I should be revaccinated.

In 1982 after graduating high school, I joined the Marine Corps. Just prior to entering boot camp and on the instructions from my primary care physician. I received a second, 23 valiant, pneumococcal vaccine. After basic training and while in my primary technical school, I became very ill with pneumonia. It was during this time period I was instructed by military doctors I only needed one pneumococcal vaccine in my lifetime.

I now know I should regularly get vaccinated as per CDC guidelines.

While in the Marine Corps, I met and married a fellow Marine. We used to laugh that like clockwork I would get sick with a fever around Christmas. It was annoying to take trips to be with family over the holidays because I would become ill and disrupt our plans. In another redundant fashion, I would go to the doctor and explain my medical history only to be told: “go home, take Tylenol, drink fluids, and get plenty of rest.”

Finally it was Christmas 1999. Do you remember Y2K? LOL, I do. The same exact thing happened: I got sick, went to the doctor, sent home, told to get some rest. This only lasted a few days until it was too late…

It’s now the middle of January. I remember being in work and feeling like garbage. I looked so bad, my boss sent me home early for fear of getting those around me sick. When I made it home my fever was 101.5̊ I did as I’ve always done – took some Tylenol and went to bed.

That was it.
Woke up the next day – Done!
Purple blotches everywhere… Purpura, hemorrhagic bleeding, fever still elevated, hands and feet tingling, brain fog, unsteady, couldn’t walk… just a complete mess.

I didn’t know it but sepsis was already taking me away…or at least parts of me.

It was less than 24 hours from when I got home to being driven to the hospital by my wife.

The hospital staff, doctors and nurses, were not too much help that night. They knew I was dying in front of them, but not why or from what. I was having trouble breathing and they intubated me.

I woke up two months later…
In a different hospital…
With no limbs…
Everything was gone…
Now what?

Now the real work begins. More surgeries for skin grafts. More surgeries to revise my limbs and face. More therapy, OT & PT. More prosthetic appointments. More doctor appointments. More research on what the hell happened and what could I do about it. More long phone calls with insurance. More of everything. Mostly more work, pain, and struggle.

I received my prosthetic arms about the Fourth of July. I received my prosthetic legs late August, after my birthday.

More work.

I started driving again January 2001. It was also that month when I relearned how to wipe my backside. It had been about one calendar year that I lost due to my illness and sepsis.

Over time I learned that it’s not just the original onset of sepsis that did damage. There are hidden long term effects like memory issues and reoccurring MRSA infections. This knowledge about how my body behaves now has been slowly revealed. Just like learning how to walk again, it’s a process, not a single event.
I have become a stronger advocate for myself. I listen to my body better and educate myself on my current state of health, including VACCINATIONS.

As with anything that is worthwhile, I put in the work and effort to regain what I lost. I didn’t strive to be the “old” me, but forged a new path for myself. I was able to retire from my previous job as an aircraft mechanic and somehow become even busier with volunteering for three different organizations lol. I travel the country and “work” with children or adults affected by limb loss and limb difference. I speak and lecture to college students in different medical professions. I routinely conduct peer visits with new amputees. I am an invited guest speaker for many different organizations.

The illness and sepsis many have hurt the body on the outside, but not the person on the inside. I’m still a husband, father, brother, and son. I enjoy a more scaled back less frenetic life that brings me pleasure. Like a Bonsai tree, I have been pruned. Unnecessary things were trimmed away to revel a greater truth. I then, in turn, clipped many things out of my life that were not bringing fulfillment or were nonsensical distractions. I was able to focus on family, friends, and giving back.

Every day I wake up it’s a choice. I choose to be here. I choose to be happy. I choose to be an active participant. I am grateful for all of the opportunities this “tragedy” put in my path. I have been blessed and made better than whole from all the different people who have come into my life and “lent me a hand” on my journey.

I can’t change what happened. I can only change my attitude towards it. All in all, I am happy and live a full dynamic life.

Source: Mike St Onge

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