On Monday, November 14th, Heidi sought medical help for a severe pain in her pelvic area accompanied by a fever of 103 degrees. She was immediately taken to the Emergency Room at Salem Hospital and it was discovered that Heidi has a Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infection (NSTI), also know as a flesh-eating infection, which has spread from her anus up through to her abdomen. The only good news here is that -- so far -- the bacteria has only attacked the connective tissue and fat between the various organs and has NOT yet invaded any organs. However, a significant deal of tissue, muscle mass and sinew has been destroyed in a large corridor between her lower pelvis and her abdomen.
Over the past 5 days, Heidi has endured 4 extensive surgeries to clean out the bacteria, debride the dead skin and build protective borders around clean areas. She has returned from each surgery with multiple open wounds (two separate holes in her pereneal area and her abdomen is filleted vertically 14" from the top of her pelvis up through her belly-button to just below her diaphragm) and she has had an endotracheal breathing tube in since Tuesday and will continue to have it in until after her last surgery focused on closing her stomach incision.
Today's surgery (Friday, November 18th) brought some good news. It appears that there are no new pus/infection pockets and that this surgery resulted in containment and the laying the groundwork for reconstruction and repair. The bad news is that the surgeon estimates that there will be multiple surgeries spread out over the next six weeks before Heidi is even ready to leave the hospital. Once discharged, Heidi will have to move into a rehab facility where she can get the critical physical therapy and wound care that she will need to recover.
The medical team at Salem Hospital has been amazing. The nursing staff in the ICU who have been assigned to Heidi's case so far have been caring, professional, extremely knowledgeable and empathetic.
Thank you to all Heidi's college professors, friends and loved ones who have been here by her side and supporting her from afar. Getting through this surgical process is the essential focus right now, but then comes the recovery, which will be long and difficult -- both physically and emotionally. On Wednesday, Heidi learned that she would have to take "incompletes" in all her classes this semester (she will have until February 20th to get the make-up work in). Worst of all, the doctors informed her that she definitely has to cancel her Semester Abroad in Greece. Needless to say, she was devastated. We have since established that should she be physically able, she can shift her semester abroad semester to September 2017. So much sudden change and pain for a 20 year old who had the world by the tail just one week ago.
For now, we are surviving hour to hour and doing all we can to support Heidi's healing. Each of you has made a huge difference and we are all eternally grateful.
We will keep posting updates daily as we learn about progress and status. As for now, we are looking at her next surgery to be Sunday or Monday (November 20th or November 21st) to give her body a rest from the intense surgeries she experienced all this week. Looks like we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Salem!