Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking back - the year that was: Staph infection/sepsis/hospitalizations (Part 2)

(It's actually hard to sit down and remember all of this in order.  Some of it remains a huge blur.  Anyway, a little more for the memory store today.)

With morning came the news that there was indeed staph infection inside of Jeff's hip joint.  MRSA?  MSSA?  The labs would have to be cultured in order to find out.  They could not afford to wait to see what kind of infection it was, nor how far it had spread.  Jeff was one sick guy - still going thru cycles of shaking, sweating profusely, high fever, intense pain, then medication to relieve the pain, then nausea.  He had very few moments of being alert and aware.

A cavalry of doctors came through his room:  Infectious disease, the orthopaedic surgeon, and our regular doctor.   Where did this infection come from?  To this day, we still don't know.  There were no obvious wounds, no dental work nor abscessed teeth.  Did the infection linger in his surgery site for three years?  The doctors felt it was unlikely, but they wouldn't rule it out.  Staph infections can be so subversive, so sneaky, so tenacious.

I was allowed to follow him to surgery prep, and to kiss him goodbye at the swinging doors. There was so much I wanted to say - but it all happened so quickly.  He wouldn't have heard me, nor remembered me anyway.  I couldn't quite believe all that was happening. 

The surgeon came and spoke with me before surgery began.  He explained what he planned to do.  He would go in through the previous surgery site - a 12 inch scar - and take Jeff's entire hip apart again.  He would need to see how much infection was present, how much damage had been done.  He would irrigate it and clean it out, douse it with antibiotics, and then put him back together again.  This time, however, a strand of 17 antibiotic-emitting cement beads would be left inside Jeff's body, lying right below the hip joint.  The cement "necklace" would stay in for several months, and another surgery would need to take place to remove them.

The surgeon is a brilliant, gifted man.  He is known for his perfectionism.  He's a bit crass at times, but it struck me that I didn't care one bit about his personality or quirks or even personal shortcomings.  I was thankful that he was prone to perfectionism when it came to bone and flesh eating infections in my husband's body.  You can believe that I  thanked God for his wisdom and the skill that he had obtained through many many years of study.

The surgeon was a bit stunned when he heard that we had eight children at home and were expecting our ninth.  (Our family doctor, someone who has become a friend, filled him in on our family.)  I think (no, I know...because he told me so....) that he was well aware of the weight of responsibility he held in his hands. Nine kids, potentially fatherless, if he could not eradicate the staph.  He looked me in the eyes and said, "I will do my best to save him and his hip, too.  I will treat him as if he were a member of my own family." 

And then, the waiting game began.  I was alone and had been alone throughout all of this time.  The kids were home alone as well.  My parents live nearby, but my Dad does not drive.  They are well beyond taking care of toddlers.   In fact, I was supposed to be driving my father to an appointment with his endocrinologist this day.  Also, the sentencing was taking place for the man who attacked our son.  I had called the Prosecuting Attorney to let her know that we would not be at the courthouse.  It was not due to a lack of concern or interest, but that we simply could not be there.

I was alone, but I carried with me and sat with the memory of another hospital, another time, another daddy, another woman and mother and children for whom the story did not end well.  That story is not really mine to tell, but it impacted our lives (Jeff's and mine) in a really big way.  Without invading (too much) a friend's memory, I will just share that around 14 years earlier, a friend of mine lost her young husband to a sudden staph infection.  I had still vivid memories of bringing her 14 month old twins to the hospital the night he died so that she could nurse them.  I remember walking the hospital halls with her - of her being handed his physical/material belongings in a plastic bag - and of her walking out through the hospital doors carrying her two babies out into the night - babies who still had not taken their first step.  I remembered her with those babies and her 4 year old daughter, alone....alone for ten more years until God brought her another husband.  I remembered her deep, deep pain and anguish day after day after day after day after day.

At some level, I had known that Jeff and I would face this very thing one day.  Jeff later told me that he had known, too.  We can't explain it - simply that in some way, God had let us know that we would also walk through this shadow.  God did not tell us how it would end.  We simply did not know.  I did know what was possible with a staph infection.  I had no naivete when it came to illnesses like this.  I knew there were no, are no, guarantees.

And I sat alone with those thoughts in the waiting room for hours.  I was too numb to pray, nauseated at everything, hated being the nearest relative responsible for the one in surgery, yet loving him so much and being so very willing to carry this pain and responsibility for him.  I hated that it was me, but was glad that it was me.  He was mine, had been since I was 17 and he was 18,  and I would gladly go to the edge of the grave with him.  I'd go further, if I needed to.

On second thought, I was not even physically alone.  I had a tiny little baby with me who brought me great comfort.  This little one and I would go through a lot together in days to come.

I knew the Lord was with me, and with Jeff and the kids - but the trust and the feeling were purely cerebral.  I felt nothing - no guarantee - only the knowledge that I had to keep walking, keep waiting.  The groundwork for faith had been lain years before, and now, faith was not dependent upon feeling nor upon outcome.

I couldn't really pray - but that seemed beside the point.  I knew that God knew my thoughts and requests, as surely as any good friend would have.  He simply knew.


  1. (((((((hugs)))))))
    Love to you, Holly.

  2. I remember your posts from last year telling about all this. I'm so glad everything has turned out for the best with your family.

  3. Thanks, Molly. Love back to you, sweetheart!

    Kat - I'm guessing that this sounds like "reruns" to several people. I feel badly about that - don't want to be boring or anything. It's weird, though, I just want to write it all down, completely, in one place, then put it to rest for the kids to read someday. I'm writing it anyway...so figured maybe someone else would want to read it too. I struggled to write things down at the time, it's hard for me to do when going thru crisis. Even with the updates here on my blog and also on facebook, I felt that I needed to always put a happy face on things. People can't handle sadness nor heavy emotions, you know? At least not for long. I'm just wanting to walk thru it again - as it was, as it happened - and then be done. Therapy? Yeah, probably. :) Thanks for being here!!!! :) (I always feel like I need to apologize or explain why I'm writing something. It's a weakness, I guess.)

  4. It's not that I'm "enjoying" these posts, yet I feel like I'm walking the road with you, which is such a great way to hear a story. I've cried a few times, 'cause I can easily see myself in your shoes - maybe it's the way you do your storytelling? I just know it feels like I'm right there with you ~ therefore, the emotions are right there too.

    Don't apologize. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you & yours, Holly!!

  5. Chills. And a *knowing* what this is like...as we nearly lost me, too. I shed some tears with your first entry, Holly, and my heart beat a little faster with this one. I think it is good to write it all down. I hope it is cathartic for you.

    love from Val xx

  6. I remember when you originally shared the story of your friend...or did she actually write it and you posted it? can't remember the details...and last year I remembered it with a lump in my throat as you would share updates about Jeff.

    It's "good" to read this all again, this time knowing the outcome.

    I read this by Paul Miller recently:
    "When Jesus prays at Gethsemane "take this cup from me," he is being real; Christians rush to "not my will, but yours be done" without first expressing their hearts (Luke 22:42, NIV). They submit so quickly that they disappear...When we stop being ourselves with God, we are no longer in real conversation with God."

    Your writing here reminds me of that...you are being real, expressing yourself. It's part of the being yourself with us - and with God.

    As my resident counselor/therapist (my husband, that is) tells me, there's a place God would have us be (mentally and spiritually) in regard to the circumstances in our lives. More often than not, we have to work through the circumstances to get to that "place". It sounds like maybe this is a bit of your own "working through"...


    with much love!

  7. Your faith is a true witness. Love that you retold this...!

  8. No need to apologize - I actually like rereading about it! :) It's a much different perspective than while it was all happening.

  9. Thank you, Lori, Val, Kari and Kat. Much, much love and gratitude to you!(()) Thanks for just being here. And Kari - thank you for the perspective. I think it is right on!

  10. Maybe it's been a year, but experiences like this don't easily fade away. They tend to stick and stay and change you (for the good or the bad - though I know with you, God is working it all out for good). The changing can take a while too while you work through all that happened. You are seriously one of the strongest, bravest women I know. But, never, ever feel that putting on a happy face is what everyone wants. Those that can't handle the heavy...well, your friends want to know how to pray and care for you in the middle of these times. It's possible too that just writing the practical details and logistics are about all that you can get out in times like that, kind of like the praying you mentioned here. It's felt, not so much spoken. I felt a measure of your pain then, but feel it even more so as I read through your reflections of the past year. I continue to keep you and your precious family in my prayers.

  11. Holly, I followed your blog and Facebook with concern and prayers while all of this was happening. I say that to let you know that although I was "there" when this happened, I appreciate your writing more extensively about all of this. I believe this will be a help to others. Thanks for sharing. I'm so glad to know this saga has a happy ending.

  12. Holly, thank you--and Jeff--for LIVING OUT "His grace is sufficient for me," even if you were numb to it in the darkest moments. ~Tina

  13. Laura, Revka, Tina - thanks for reading and your kind input!

    I really will come back and write more. Life exploded this week. :)

  14. I remember last year when you'd mention some of these things on your blog, I remember praying.

    I think your keeping a record of these events in your life, even though they were so painful at the time, is a beautiful thing to do. :)

  15. Not sure if you're still keeping up with this or not but I thought I would comment anyway. May 6th of 2011, I was leaving work and noticed a pain in my upper thigh, it felt like maybe I pulled a muscle, after I got home that night an hour or so afterwards, the pain was so bad I couldn't get off my couch, I could no longer walk, to get to my bed I had to either walk backwards and drag my leg or lift my leg up by my pant leg, needless to say I didn't get much sleep that night.

    The next morning it took me an hour to get dressed, use the bathroom and open the door so my son could come in. My daughter in law took me to the emergency room and after a few tests they were going to send me home telling me I had osteo arthritis in my hip. My son who is a nurse was to say the least ticked off, he knew this wasn't osteo arthritis.
    When the nurse brought in the walker and saw that I had to lift my pant leg to get my leg to move, she says to me"you can't walk?" Now mind you I had been telling them this for hours.
    They admitted me and after consulting with many other doctors an orthopedic surgeon came in and after a simple test concluded that this was an infection and not something with my bone.
    I had emergency surgery at 11pm that night, my surgeon was wonderful, he told my son if he hadn't seen it he wouldn't have believed it could happen, I have never had hip replacement surgery, they had no idea how I got this.

    After having spent 9 days in the hospital, 7 in a nursing home for rehab and then 10 weeks of physical therapy and being out of work for 3 months it's still hard to believe this has happened and it's been almost two years.

    I know exactly the pain your family has gone through, and I hope and pray things have gotten better for you


  16. Ronna, thank you so much for commenting. I hope and pray that you are doing well now, too. What a horrifying experience for you. Hugs.