6: A Tragic, But Miraculous Summer

6: A Tragic, But Miraculous Summer

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

A Tragic, But Miraculous Summer

Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.

~Walt Whitman

I was doing a carpentry project that summer four years ago. Inspecting leftover wood piled in a field, I accidently disturbed a wasp nest. Wearing jeans, I didn’t realize a wasp had stung me just above my right knee. I was not allergic to wasp stings, and went on with the day not thinking anything about it. Two hours later, while in the work shed, I began to feel nauseated and had a terrible pain in my leg. I left the shed and went to the main house to tell the owner I had to leave. The wasp sting pain would not stop, and I went home to lie down for a while.

After resting for a few hours, the pain only got worse, so my wife Catherine took me to the hospital. In the emergency room, the doctor looked at the wasp sting and said he’s seen stings like mine throughout the summer. It was no big deal. He gave me Benadryl for the reaction and Demerol for the pain. He said the pain would go away, and released me. The only worrying sign that the doctor saw was a purple bruise developing near the sting site. And it was a far bigger deal than either we or the doctor thought.

The severe pain continued throughout the night and worsened by early morning. My son, Cameron, rushed me back to the hospital. By the time we reached the hospital, I was going into septic shock. At home, Catherine called the hospital to find out my condition. At the time, they told her I was okay, but were keeping me for observation to find out why I went into septic shock.

Several hours later, a nurse called Catherine and told her that my organs had begun to shut down. I was put in the ICU. A hole about the size of a doorknob had opened on the right side of my leg, just above my knee. They asked Catherine if I had arrived in the emergency room with my leg in that condition. Catherine replied, “The reason why he returned to the emergency room was because the pain from the wasp sting would not stop. When he left home, it was still just a purple pin dot. He came in earlier and the first doctor just looked at it and prescribed Benadryl and Demerol. He did not fully examine what else could be causing the extraordinary pain he was having.”

What were they observing? Didn’t my vital signs show something seriously wrong? Why hadn’t they taken my clothes off to examine my whole body? They only discovered my deteriorating leg after I was transferred into ICU. The condition of my leg was deteriorating rapidly, as was my whole body. These questions cannot be answered.

Richard G. Martin, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S. General Surgery/Breast Cancer Surgery, had just come out of surgery. Because of his expertise and experience, one of my examining doctors asked him to assess the situation. He had seen several cases similar to mine and immediately said, “This man is very sick; he needs to be transferred to a disease specialist right away.” He called three hospitals: Vanderbilt in Nashville, Erlanger in Chattanooga, and Saint Thomas, also in Nashville. I was now in critical condition.

After the doctors stabilized my situation, I was flown to Saint Thomas Hospital by Life Force, an air medical transport team. At Saint Thomas, they rushed me immediately into surgery. At this hospital I was, eventually, diagnosed with group A streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. I had developed several serious infections. I had also contracted rare flesh-eating bacteria in my right leg, and it was now entering the upper part of my body.

The bacteria eventually infected several other parts of my body. I had respiratory failure, acute kidney failure, blood clots, tissue rotting and bowel failure. So much of my body was failing that only a specialist would understand.

Things were not going well. The doctors told my wife and four children that I had very little chance of survival. The family gathered at the hospital, waiting to hear the worst. The doctor returned to battle the odds, trying to save my life. I was told later these were very tense moments. Most of the medical team said I would probably not make it. The surgeon came to inform my wife. Catherine asked if there was anything more they could do. He said that if they amputated my leg at the hip and removed part of the bacteria that had entered just above the hip it would stop the spreading. She replied, “Do what you must do.”

I had never been that sick in my life. Had the original doctor diagnosed my severe pain correctly from the beginning, maybe my leg might have been saved. The investigative medical doctors concluded that no one will ever know what caused this extraordinary illness. As one doctor said, “He is lucky to be alive.” Another said, “His survival is a miracle of God.”

Approximately a year and a half later, I personally met Dr. Martin at the Fairfield Glade. I did not know who he was until he introduced himself. He had been sitting on a bench watching his son play basketball. I had also come to watch my son play basketball. The bench was large, so I asked if I could join him. He looked at me in amazement and said, “You don’t know me, do you?”

“Sorry sir, but should I?” I replied.

“I am Dr. Richard Martin. I know who you are, and I know all about your case.” He then told me of his involvement in my situation. After our intense conversation, his wife came from the pool area to where we sat. He was about to introduce us, but she already knew who I was.

“Did he tell you what he did?” she asked me.

“Yes.”

“His insistence that you be transferred may have saved your life,” she said.

She then left and headed to the changing room.

Dr. Martin and I sat talking for quite some time while we watched our sons play. We talked about many other unrelated things. When he was leaving, I asked for his business card. I didn’t ever want to forget this man.

~Jay Fox

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