Ann’s Story

Site created on September 19, 2018

Welcome to my CaringBridge website. I am using it to keep family and friends updated on the progress with my illness.  I appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.

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Journal entry by Ann Nickell

It started on Friday night, August 17, 2018.  I don't believe this is related, but it started all of these strange things with my body - my hand had an allergic reaction to the zucchini I peeled to make baked parmesan zucchini.  I tried stretching out my hand after coating the zucchini, and had a hard time moving it.  I saw that it was coated with this green film that took two days to go away.  I looked it up online and discovered that it's called contact dermatitis.  I had never heard of it.  It said that most people who develop that can still eat the zucchini, so I did eat some with my baked chicken for dinner.

Later that evening, I got horrible pains in my abdomen, and it got worse over the weekend.  I missed out on going with my boyfriend and his mom to visit his two boys, spending the day curled up in a ball in pain instead.  I took different antacids to try to help, but it got worse, with diarrhea and vomiting.

Finally, at 3:00 a.m. on Sunday night/Monday morning, I went to an urgent care center.  They took blood and ran labs and did a CT scan.  They told me that my white blood count was high, and they saw some swelling on my abdomen.  They saw nothing else wrong and diagnosed me with gastroenteritis.  My boyfriend picked up my prescriptions for me after the pharmacy opened, and I finally took a pain pill and my antibiotic around 12:00 p.m.

About two hours later, I started feeling some tingling and numbness in my left foot.  I guessed it might be from laying almost exclusively on my left side for several days, and I got up to try to shake it out and walk on it to bring back the feeling.  Instead of getting better, it got worse, until I had lost feeling in my lower left leg.  It then spread to my right leg.  That scared me, and I asked my boyfriend to take me back to the urgent care center.  By the time we got there, I had lost feeling in both lower legs, and I couldn't walk.

The doctors there had no idea what was wrong, and it scared them enough to put me in an ambulance and send me to the hospital.  They called ahead, and the doctors there were ready for me.  They rushed me in, took blood to run labs, then rushed me in for a CT scan.  They also called the cardio vascular surgeon at home, to ask him to come in.  When they finished the scan, they told me they were rushing me into emergency surgery.  It was a blur after that, being rushed to a surgery room, the surgeon quickly introducing himself, being given something to knock me out.  The whole thing frightened me, even though I didn't understand all that was happening to me.

I then woke up in ICU, and the surgeon was there to explain what had happened.  Even though my first CT scan was clear, the second one showed my body full of blood clots  from my kidneys down through my legs.  If the doctors and nurses hadn't reacted as quickly as they did, I would have died.

The surgeon cut into both left and right groin areas and went in and removed all of the blood clots.  He then saw that I had developed compartment syndrome in my left leg, and he had to make a quick decision to save my leg.  He cut open my leg on two sides, allowing the tissue and muscle to release. 

The next day, I was lucky and happy to be alive, but my left leg was still almost black, and there wasn't a pulse.  My leg was basically dead, and the doctors didn't think that they could save it.  They did an angiogram and another procedure to check for any other blood clots, and checked my leg.  Afterwards, they were still not optimistic about saving my leg.

The next morning, my night nurse pulled back the sheet to check my leg, and by another miracle, the color had come back, and he found a pulse.  Relief washed over me.  When the doctors came in later, they nearly laughed from the surprise and shock.  My surgeon checked everything himself and finally told me that they could now save my leg, but it would take time to heal.  I couldn't feel anything from the ankle down, and he told me it could take up to a year, maybe longer, to get all of the feeling back, and that I still may not get all of it back.  If not, I was told I could still learn, with lots of therapy, to live a fairly normal life, walking with some assistance.

I had several doctors and nurses come in and ask me a ton of questions about my health and medical history, because they were shocked as to how this happened at my age and relative good health. I informed them that I had never smoked, didn't drink, and didn't do drugs.  I'm not a diabetic, I don't have high blood pressure, and don't have high cholesterol.  I'd had one previous surgery fifteen years earlier to remove my gall bladder, and hadn't ever been on any long term medications.  I had no medical issues that would explain why this had happened to me.  They drew more blood and sent that to another facility for them to run their own labs to see if they could find a reason, but it came back inconclusive.  It still remains a medical mystery.

I decided to not ask why, because I knew it wouldn't get me anywhere.  I decided instead to be thankful that I am alive and have both legs and feet, to pray every day for complete healing, to think positively, and to envision myself in the future with the full use of my leg, walking and dancing with my boyfriend, vowing to push myself every day to realize that goal.  I can do this.
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