My ordeal with Necrotizing Fasciitis

Bridget Skillman is Thankful: Minus One Breast, but Plus Many Blessings

Posted on December 20, 2008. Filed under: General, My ordeal with Necrotizing Fasciitis |

Bridget Skillman is Thankful
I’m Minus one Breast and Plus Many Blessings

2008 has been a challenging and scary year, but there are two main words that sum up my feelings: BLESSED AND THANKFUL.
Hard times are never fun, but those situations make the good times even sweeter, and that is exactly what has happened this year. I have a great life, but even when we have a great life we sometimes get too accustomed to it and we take it for granted. But God has a way of reminding us of our blessings.

This year I went through a very unusual and scary ordeal – I found out I had necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease). Due to the incredible ER doctor, Dr. Dave Walters, they found it early enough to save my life and to limit the damage it could cause. I did end up having to have a mastectomy and some tissue taken from my side and back, but that is a blessing considering I could have lost my arm or even died (if you want more details about my experience you can look at my previous posts on this topic).

During that process there was pain, fear, worry, and too many other emotions to name, but God was with me through it all and brought thankfulness out of fear. Reflecting back on that time I just want to name some of the things I’m thankful for and tell you why I feel so blessed.

I’m thankful for:
• God’s love, mercy and grace – I am amazed by it! He is always there for me and keeps heaping blessings on me even though I don’t deserve them.

• My wonderful husband – God gave me one of the greatest gifts when he gave me Tim. No one could have a better spouse than mine. Our 21 years of marriage have been the best years of my life and his caring and concern during my latest ordeal proved once again how AWESOME he is. He is a very strong man and the tough situations are where he really shows what he’s made of. I love him with all my heart!! He is my knight in shining armor.

• My incredible kids – What a joy they are to me. My 17 yr. old daughter Morgan is a smart, caring, loving, compassionate girl and I love hanging out with her. The even nicer part is that I think she actually loves hanging out with me too. Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have dreamed up a girl as wonderful as she is. My 13 yr. old son Logan is also a treasure. His loving, affectionate ways just melt my heart. He’s all boy, but he is not too proud to show his love for his mom and I am always so touched by that. The other day He sent me a song on my phone -“I Will Be Right Here Waiting for You” – and that is so typical of him. How fortunate am I to have two great kids who love their mom and are not ashamed of it?

• My mom, dad and sister – Wow, what a great family I have. They have always been my support and I have always felt safe and secure in their love for me. I can’t imagine having a family who isn’t close. It‘s so great to know that you are loved unconditionally, no matter what your quirks or issues.

• My in-laws – I couldn’t have picked better in-laws if I had tried. They are sweet, special people and I love spending time with them. The welcomed me into their family 21 years ago and we haven’t stopped having fun since.

• My wonderful life – God has blessed me with a tremendous life, but this is the best holiday season ever. I don’t think about what I’ve lost, but about what I’ve gained and how merciful and gracious God has been through all of this. My scar is a constant reminder of God’s goodness.

• Dr. Dave Walters (the ER doctor who diagnosed my necrotizing fasciitis) – He was INCREDIBLE. Not only did he diagnose something that is fairly rare, but he did it quickly enough to save my life. He also has an unbelievably warm, gentle, friendly bedside manner, which was much appreciated when I was in so much pain and so worried. He will always hold a special place in my heart and be a hero to me. He is the perfect example of what a doctor should be.

• Dr. Romel Velastegui (The vascular surgeon who rushed in to do the emergency surgery that saved my life) – I know it’s his job, but I am in awe of his knowledge, his expertise, and the fact that he can be woken up in the middle of the night and rush over to do a life-saving surgery. I am so thankful that we have doctors like this. I hope they realize how much we appreciate them.

• Dr. Peter Murphy (The Pulmonary and Infectious Diseases doctor who monitored my progress in the hospital) – What a warm, friendly, brilliant man. He took great care of me while I was in the hospital AND he did it with a sense of humor. I loved that about him.

• Dr. Jeffrey Sweat (the plastic surgeon who closed my wound and tried to make it look the best he could) – He is such a down-to-earth doctor who was always easy to talk to and who treated us like he’d known us forever. My necrotizing fasciitis wound was not an easy one to close due to all that they had to take, but he managed to change a nasty wound into a beautiful scar.

• My church family- They have been so supportive and loving and really helped me and my family through a difficult time.

Even without this ordeal I knew I had a great, blessed life. But through this I have been reminded even more. This Christmas is so much sweeter and I am thrilled beyond belief at what God has done for me.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and remember what is really important!!

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I’m Back. Necrotizing Fascitis had me down, but not completely out!!

Posted on October 19, 2008. Filed under: General, My ordeal with Necrotizing Fasciitis |

I’m Back! Necrotizing Fascitis had me down, but not completely out!

Well, I think I’m back…

I am still recovering from my ordeal with necrotizing fascitis (the flesh-eating disease), and I think it will be a while before I feel normal again, but at least maybe I can get back to blogging.

I will give you a brief update on how I’m doing.

  • I ended up in the hospital a 2nd time, but came home last week. It was a very tough week, but finally I feel like I’m on the other side of this thing.
  • I am still getting used to having a mastectomy and a 16 inch scar. It is very uncomfortable!! It’s extremely tight and feels like I have a very tight band squeezing the left side of my chest. Because I had the flesh-eating disease and they had to make sure and take everything it touched, they had to take a lot of my skin. That meant that they didn’t have as much skin left to close over the wound as they would a normal mastectomy. The surgeon didn’t want to have to graft skin if he didn’t have to, which means my skin is pulled tight as a drum.  I still can’t raise my left arm over my head because the Dr. wants to make sure the tightest part is really closed and will not pull open. The tightness is limiting the movement on my left side, but I’m sure with time it will get better.
  • I am also adjusting to having NO feeling in certain parts of my left side because the nerves were affected during the initial surgery. The parts where there is little or no feeling are underneath the top part of my arm, my armpit and the surrounding area, and above the length of the scar. It’s a very odd feeling and I’m finding it harder to get used to than I thought.
  • The prosthesis is another issue. I’m having to gradually wear it longer and longer each day so that I can work up to wearing it all day, and it too is very uncomfortable. It sits right over my scar and rubs against it, and by the time I’ve had it on for a few hours I’m ready to rip it off!!
  • Back aches are another problem. If I do too much or if I have the prosthesis on too long, my back is killing me, but I’m hoping and assuming that will get better with time.
  • The weakness in my left arm is also something I’m assuming will improve. Once I’ve been up and about for a little while my arm gets very tired and I need to rest it on something.
  • I’m still trying to get my overall strength back. Even being out for a little while wears me out, but I’m trying to do more gradually.
  • Hopefully I’ll be returning to work on November 6

BUT, I AM THANKFUL!!!! God has been sooooo good to me! I am alive, I am able to see my kids grow up, I’m able to grow old with my husband, and I thank God every day for that!! Things could have been so much worse and I am grateful for God’s grace and mercy. Every time I see my scar I will NOT be reminded of the horrible ordeal I went through, but I WILL be reminded of God’s grace. My sister told me she read somewhere that our scars are a kiss from the mouth of God, so I will look at the scar as a 16 inch kiss from God that is a reminder of his mercy.

I know there is a purpose in this and I’m just waiting for God to reveal it to me. His ways are perfect. They are not always easy, but they are perfect, and I want Him to use me in whatever way He sees fit.

The first night they diagnosed me and rushed me into emergency surgery was one of the hardest nights of my life. It was about 2 am and my husband and I were at the hospital alone. As we were waiting for them to get the operating room ready I was so afraid. I had heard of necrotizing fascitis and knew how deadly it could be. I was so scared I wouldn’t make it and I was trying to say everything I needed to say before they put me out for the surgery. I was trying to tell my husband how much I loved him and how the last 21 years married to him were the best of my life. I was trying to tell him what to say to the kids and my family if I died, and I felt like I couldn’t think of everything I wanted to say. I was crying, he was crying, and he kept telling me it would turn out alright, even though he didn’t know for sure. That was a very dark night for us, but God got us through it. Weeks later my husband told me how hard it had been for him. He said he was scared, cold, and lonely. The hospital is not a fun place to be anyway, but in the middle of the night it’s even lonelier. He started praying and then he had to start calling friends and family. His dad and one of his best friends, Matt, came down to the hospital immediately, and it made such a difference for Tim.

My mom, dad, and sister flew out to be with us and help us in the days following the surgery and they were such a blessing!! They helped in many ways – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – and I am grateful to have the family I have.

The days following surgery were very hard, but there was never a day when I didn’t thank God. I went to sleep every night just thanking Him and praising Him and asking that He use this in my life and in others’ lives. r

I have to say something about the doctors who treated me. They were AWESOME!! The ER Dr. who initially diagnosed the necrotizing fasciitis was Dr. Dave Walters, and I am sooo glad he was on duty that night. He was incredible, not only because he diagnosed it so quickly, but also because he’s probably one of the nicest doctors I have ever met. His bedside manner was gentle, calm, soothing, reassuring, and comforting and he really helped me and Tim get through those initial hours. If all Dr’s could be like Dr. Walters, then hospitals would be much more pleasant places!! If you ever have to go to an ER, then Mercy San Juan is the place and Dr. Dave Walters is the ER doc you want! The surgeon who rushed in to do the emergency surgery was Dr. Romel Velastigui and he did a fantastic job. I was so glad to be in such capable hands. The ICU/infectious disease Dr. who saw me every day was Dr. Peter Murphy and he was also a very sweet, gentle, down to earth man. He was very easy to talk to and was very reassuring when I was worried. And the Dr. who had to do all the clean-up work – putting me back together, sewing me up, and trying to make a nasty wound into a decent-looking scar- was Dr. Jeffrey Sweat. He was also very friendly and Tim and I enjoy visiting with him when I go in for my check-ups. What a GREAT GROUP of doctors. I love ’em all and appreciate what they did for me. I wish there was some way to really show my appreciation to them!!

I do have to mention a couple of more people:

  • The Wound Care Team – These were the nicest ladies-  so professional, yet friendly and warm!
  • Nurse Fatima  and Nurse Sheila – These were the most incredible nurses.  They went above and beyond the call of duty and really made my hospital stay much more bearable.

God really used these people, their talents, their gifts, and their heart for helping others to help me heal!!!

I was also soooo blessed by the prayers of others. I truly felt people lifting me and my family up in prayer. You will never know how much it has meant to me and how much I appreciate it. I heard from people all over the country who said they were praying for me and I realized once again how great the family of God is!!

I was also grateful to those who ministered to my family in all this. Even though folks couldn’t visit me in my hospital room, they still came to the hospital to see my husband and my kids and to help them pass the time in the waiting room. People spent hours just sitting with my kids and talking to my husband when he came out of my room. They also brought meals to the hospital and to my home to make sure my family was eating right. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!  I have some of the greatest friends ever!! My church family was tremendous and went way beyond the call of duty to help us out.

The cards I have gotten have also been such a huge encouragement to me.  Tim and I got in the habit of reading them every night right before we went to sleep and it came to be a very special time for us. The Scripture and words of encouragement really helped me get through the worst days.

Tim spent almost every night in the hospital with me, and that’s a lot considering I was there for 12 days the first time. He has been TREMENDOUS throughout all of this and it has made me even more thankful for him. The nurses even told me they’ve never seen such an attentive and loving spouse as mine. He is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me and I love him to pieces! He definitley upheld his end of the bargain concerning the “in sickness and in health” part of our vows!

Anyway, the last 6 weeks have been interesting and I still have more recovery ahead of me, but things are looking a lot better! Therefore, I will start blogging again and hopefully we will keep Obama from winning this election and ruining our country!!

You didn’t really think this would soften me up about this election, did you???? We’ve still got a battle to win and this warrior may have been down for 6 weeks, but I’ve still got a little longer to try and get the word out before election day. Go McCain/Palin!!!!!!!

Bridget

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Bridget’s Blog Temporarily Halted Due to Medical Emergency

Posted on September 18, 2008. Filed under: General, My ordeal with Necrotizing Fasciitis |

This will be brief and I will explain in more detail when I have recovered, but I just thought I’d let y’all know why I have not posted anything for the last 3 weeks. Bottom line, I got very sick, was in a lot of pain, had to be rushed to the emergency room where, after hours of tests, they found out I had necrotizing fasciitis. In layman’s terms, this is the ‘flesh-eating disease’, and I had to have immediate emergency surgery. They had to take all the tissue that was involved and leave clean borders, so when surgery was over I had a mastectomy on my left side along with some tissue taken from my side and back. It was a little over 24 hours from when I first felt the pain on the left side of my chest until I was being wheeled into surgery. It’s a very fast moving disease and often times fatal.

I’m rarely speechless, but this experience has left me that way. It happened so fast and it seems so surreal, but in the end I am thankful to be alive. They told me if I had waited 24 more hours I would probably be dead. I was in the hospital for 11 days and am now home, but the Dr said recovery will be about 6 weeks.

Let me say again that I am thankful to God to be alive and I feel blessed that they didn’t have to take more. (They thought at one point that they might have to take my arm) Please keep me and my family in your prayers. This has definitely taken a toll on them as well as myself and they have been fantastic!!

I will start posting again as I recover more, but I thought I’d at least get this much out for now.

Thanks to all of you who knew and have been praying. It has really helped!!!! God is good!!!

Bridget

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