Tag Archives: Miracle

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Dispelling the Myths

As most of you may be aware, the reason we are putting together an anthology for our friend Karen DeLabar is because last summer she almost died from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Her story, in her words, is a harrowing and courageous tale that, when you read it, you think could only be a nightmare. But it happened. And it happened to our dear friend. It almost took her life. Almost.

Orange Karen: Our Miraculous Warrior

Karen DeLabar starting the long road to recovery from her battle with TSS.

Many people, including myself, think of tampons when they hear about Toxic Shock Syndrome. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was an “epidemic” of Toxic Shock Syndrome among menstruating women who used superabsorbent tampons. One brand in particular contained a chemical in the make-up of the tampons that prevented the filtering of the bacteria that caused TSS, thus increasing the risk. Since then, tampon manufacturers have adjusted the composition of their tampons and risk of TSS has reduced greatly.

Superabsorbent tampons in the late 70’s and early 80’s were the cause in an epidemic of TSS in North America.

Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and the information presented in this blog is not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool. If you have further questions about your health as it relates to TSS, please consult a medical professional.

So what is TSS?

Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is rare and life-threatening caused by strains of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or streptococcus (strep) bacteria that produce toxins (poisons). Initial symptoms of TSS can be similar to the flu: high fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, and disorientation. Those with TSS might also experience low blood pressure, shock, dehydration, sore throat, muscle pain, peeling skin, kidney failure, and a rash that looks similar to a sunburn. Toxic Shock Syndrome can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated right away.

staph

This staph bacteria might look cute, but it can turn deadly once it starts to release toxins in the body.

The most important thing we want to share is this: TSS doesn’t just occur in women who wear tampons. TSS can also occur in men and children. If the staph and strep bacteria enter the bloodstream through a cut or infection, then they may be at risk for TSS. Karen did not get TSS from tampons. Karen and her medical team are not sure how she contracted TSS, but are very sure in that she did not get it from tampon use.

What is the cure for TSS?

The first and most important thing is that TSS must be identified early enough so that rigorous treatment can begin. In most cases the goal of treatment is to keep the body functioning and to assist the body in getting rid of the infection. This is not one of those “get your prescription for antibiotics and go home, drink plenty of fluids and you’ll be back to work next week” type of infections. If you have TSS you will be hospitalized, most likely in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Treatments may include IV antibiotics, kidney dialysis, fluid through an IV to stay hydrated, a feeding tube to give the body the nutrients it needs. In Karen’s case, she was put in a medically induced coma in order to help her live. She was hooked up to every machine possible to help her major organs to function as the antibiotics went to work to rid her of the infection.

How can I prevent TSS?

Most resources on TSS prevention include proper tampon hygiene – limiting the use of highly absorbent tampons. Since TSS can also be contracted through cuts and open wounds (including post-surgical), it would be very important to make sure wounds are clean and are cared for properly so to prevent any type of infection.

Now What?

Hopefully this post has dispelled some myths about TSS. Here’s what the medical community now know about TSS:

  • People still get TSS and it’s not always contracted through the use of tampons.
  • Open cuts and wounds can also cultivate staph and strep bacteria that can cause toxins to build up in the body.
  • It can occur in men, women and children.
  • While Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, it is serious and life-threatening.

Resources

MayoClinic

Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service

PubMed Health

Health Canada’s views on TSS

Sunset through the clouds

Karen was extremely lucky to have survived. Those that know her, or know of her, know it wasn’t just luck – it was a miracle. That and her “kick TSS’s ass” mentality. She’s a fighter and we’re all behind her crouched in our best ninja-fighting stance. One of the ways we’re helping Karen fight is through the creation of an anthology of short stories. We have 39 amazing authors lined up with stories guaranteed to entertain. Perhaps I’m biased, but I’d have to say that this is one of the most eclectic short story anthologies I have ever read. There’s suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, humor…you will laugh, cry, swoon, and cheer! I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but you’re going to have to wait until April 2013!

Stay tuned as we will be featuring the Orange Karen Anthology authors on this blog so you’ll get to know them and will get a taste of their work!

– Christina

Karen DeLabar: This is Simply My Story – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown (Day 15)

By now, Karen DeLabar should need no introduction. She’s the “Orange Karen” we’ve been writing about on this blog for the past two weeks. She’s the reason we’re doing this anthology. She is our friend, our inspiration and our warrior. Today marks the deadline for accepting submissions to the Orange Karen Anthology. Some of you know Karen, some of you don’t. But none of you (save a few) know the whole story about Karen’s sudden, and deathly illness, and how she came out alive, swinging fists after a long battle.

She still struggles with typing, and often writes by hand before dictating it to her computer. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to reflect on the past six months and try to put into words what happened. But she did it. This kid’s got moxie, folks. Oodles of it.

It is my absolute honor to share with you Karen’s story, written by the one, the only, the true Orange Warrior, Karen DeLabar.

Note: Karen has put up some pictures on her website which further depict her battle with Toxic Shock Syndrome and her recovery. While some of the pictures may be graphic, they show the marvels of modern medicine and they show the resilient spirit of our dear friend.

* * * * *

This is simply my story.

It started like any other Saturday. Eric was rushing around trying to get the kids ready and I was being lazy not wanting to get out of bed. Until, that is, I realized what was happening this Saturday. That evening was our oldest daughter’s very first dance recital. I was beyond excited. If you know me you know I love theater, the arts, entertaining. The thought of my daughter following in my footsteps just makes me want to push her out of the spotlight and take her place. Just kidding. 😉

As the day went on I started to feel tired, run down. I brushed it off thinking it was just the normal mom feeling of having to do everything in a short amount of time. I remember swaying back and forth as I tried to perfect her braid and scolding myself for doing a half-assed job.

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

When we got to the recital I started to shake with cold sweats. Taking shallow breaths and hoping not to pass out in the wings, I watched my little ballerina hit every move. After her second dance I couldn’t stand any more and opted to go home to bed. After tossing and turning that night and the following day with a high fever, Eric took me to the ER Sunday night. The night nurses took my blood, found nothing out of the ordinary, gave me fluids and sent me on my way, diagnosing it as a viral infection.

Under this advisement I went home and spent all of Monday in bed as severe pain ravaged my body, especially in my neck, shoulder, and abdomen. By Tuesday morning I was vomiting and too weak to even stand. Eric and I actually discussed not going to the hospital because of cost but I soon felt too sick to care and insisted we go. We later learned that had I not gone to the ER that Tuesday morning I would have died Tuesday night.

The total time from onset to fatality, four days.

I spent all day in the ER and after test after test with no answer as to what my ailment was I was admitted into the ICU that night. The last thing I remember was turning to the doctor, pointing to Eric and telling her to make sure he ate something. Another doctor looked down at me and said, “Lie back, we need to intubate you.”

When Eric left that night I was just intubated, when he walked into the room the next morning I was hooked up to 13 different machines. My body went into shock and they couldn’t figure out why. Just overnight I lost blood flow to my hands and feet; the toxins then pooled where there was decreased blood causing an intense rash which then turned to blisters which popped open and left open wounds. Disgusting, angry, limb losing wounds.

I lost my left thumb almost immediately. The infection was causing my body to throw out random clots. I was also placed on four machines that are designed to pull your blood to your core. The machines saved my heart, and my life, but they doomed my hands and feet. My family watched as my extremities turned black knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it.

At one point I had 19 extra liters of fluid in my body. Think of a 2 liter bottle of soda. That’s a lot of soda.

The doctors were stumped, they had no idea what was causing my sickness. I was dubbed the sickest person in the hospital by the Dean of Medicine. I’m still waiting for my plaque.

My heart was only pumping at 25 to 30% and there was concern that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the severe attack of the infection. However, thanks to the sheer determination of the many doctors and nurses on my case, a day and a half after they started antibiotics I started to turn around.  At this point I was placed on hypnotics which allowed me to respond to the doctors but I would have no recollection of the events.

I woke up 10 days later to my husband and brother looking down on me with big goofy grins on their faces. Two days later we had a cause. A culture finally came back with toxic shock antibodies. My infection had a name, and it was Toxic Shock due to strep. Yep, your everyday strep got into my blood and there you have it. It’s cause is still unknown. It was NOT caused by tampons, or the mud run I had just raced in, or anything like that. Somehow strep got into my blood and tried it’s damnedest to kill me.

We were told that 8 out of 10 don’t survive what I went through. My doctors attribute my survival to three main reasons:

1. My age. I went through all of this, which includes mastering the bedpan, just a few short weeks of my 30th birthday.

2. My strength. Before my illness I was working out five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I would have loved to have been awake when the doctor told my mom, who used to criticize my workout schedule, that my physical strength was one of the reasons I survived.

3. I’m stubborn. My body basically refused to quit. They had me on enough narcotics and medicine to down a 300 pound man for a week, and yet I was struggling with nurses to remove my own tube, even tried to punch one who went to stop me. I struggled to let them know that I was still inside, that I was still fighting.

During that week and a half in the ICU I was placed on a dialysis machine, had several blood transfusions and more than one central line put in to administer medicines. The last one I had went straight into my neck and into a main vein; it was put into place right before I woke up. I kinda miss that one. They’d put in pain meds and before they were down pushing it all in, I would be out. Until the one nurse left the syringe in my neck and I didn’t realize it.

“Karen…” Eric asked me ever so cautiously, “is that a syringe hanging out of the side of your neck?”

I brought my hand up and lightly touched around what they called the IJ (inter-jugular) pick.

“Why, yes, yes it is.” And I went back to reading.

He spent the rest of the afternoon calling me “Frankenwife”.

After a month in the hospital and physical rehab facility I was released to go home on July 4th; a day that is now my own little Independence Day.  I thought I was in the home stretch, but my recovery was only beginning.

When the podiatrist first saw me he said the worst case scenario was double amputation up to my knees. No one should ever have to hear those words. I never felt so helpless in my life. I just kept thinking about my two little girls at home; how I could never dance or run with them again. He recommended a hyperbaric chamber to help circulation in my feet to aid in the healing. For 55 days I spent two hours breathing pure oxygen at twice the atmospheric pressure. I laid in that gigantic glass tube, completely closed off from the rest of the world watching “Frasier” reruns on Lifetime. It could have been worse.

2012-09-11 at 08-00-33 2012-09-11 at 08-12-20

The hyperbaric chamber (L); Karen gets ready for one of many hyperbaric chamber treatments (R)

My afternoons were spent at various doctors, cardiologists, hand therapists, and surgeons.

With every appointment I continued to defy the odds. They told me that it would take at least six months for my heart to recover. By the end of July it was already back to normal. When August rolled around it looked like my feet were going to be saved, minus a pinkie toe.

My thumb was still the only question mark.

The first hand surgeon wanted to amputate it, sew my new stub of a thumb to my groin and grow a new thumb from there. Yeah. Let me just walk around with my hand down my pants for six weeks. I’m sure no one would notice.

But thanks to a second opinion I am now working with a brilliant micro surgeon out of the University of Penn. I am currently undergoing a series of surgeries to reconstruct my thumb using tissue from my arm.

IMG_1987

“Look ma, a new thumb!”

I don’t remember anything from those 10 days in which I fought for my life. A part of me wants to but looking at the sadness in my family’s eyes when they recall that time I’m guessing it’s for the better that I don’t. What I do remember is waking up to two whole walls of the ICU room covered in get well cards. Nurses and doctors would randomly come in, hug me, kiss my forehead and thank God I pulled through.  My social media sites, Twitter feed, Facebook wall, were filled with seemingly endless posts of prayers, well wishes and notes of people wanting to help.

I have never been so overwhelmed in all of my life.

I’ve learned a lot this past year, patience, humility but most of all what friendship and love really means. I’ve learned to be thankful for the smallest things and I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the silver lining in darker moments.

I learned to laugh at myself.

Everyone who looks at my hands and my troubled gait say they’re so sorry that this happened to me. But please, don’t feel sorry for me; never feel sorry for me.

I’m alive, and I’m in control of my recovery.

But I am sorry. I am sorry for my parents. They had to watch their only daughter’s hands and feet turn black before their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it. I’m sorry for my husband who called up his parents to tell them to come say goodbye to me and how he had to figure out what to say to two little girls about their mommy who went to the hospital and didn’t come back.

But I’m most sorry for my two little girls who knew nothing of what was going on and just wanted their mommy to hold them. That’s who you should be sorry for, for my loved ones who had to watch me fight this and could do nothing to help.

However, that is all in the past. So instead of feeling sorry, I try to remember to celebrate. I’m here for birthday parties, holidays, smelling honeysuckle waft through the air on a cool June night. And yes, I’m even excited to be here to potty train our soon to be three year old.

Life is truly a blessed and beautiful thing. I have many reminders by way of scars, pain, and overall way of life that reminds what I went through to ensure that I have a life to live. Whenever pettiness and pride creeps in to ruin my day I just have to look down to my hands or feet to remember how precious life is and what really matters.

I urge you to stop and take some time to yourself and be thankful for all that you have because within four days it could all be gone.

I want to quickly give thanks to everyone who has worked on this site, submitted posts, submitted stories for the anthology, and is currently working on putting everything together. Another big hug and thanks to all my friends and family who have rallied behind us during this trying time. To my doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacies, and hospital staff, thank you for your dedication to help others. And last, but not least, my husband, Eric. Yours was the last face I saw before I went out and the first one I saw when I woke up. I want to keep it that way. 

2012-12-06 at 18-28-37

A DeLabar Family Christmas 2012

The Miracle of Time: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown – Day 12

Steven Luna is a Wizard of Words. He spellbinds syllables and turns letters into beautiful prose. This post is no exception, folks. Luna waves his writerly wand and crafts up a post that inspires us to cherish all the moments in our life because each and every one of them is precious.

Just a few more days left to submit your short story for consideration for the Orange Karen Anthology. Time is precious, folks. Use it well.

* * * * *

The Miracle of Time

Steven Luna

One of my all-time favorite ideas to head-scratch over is the notion that time only exists to keep everything from happening all at once. Albert Einstein said that…or a much smarter-sounding version of it, anyway. As thought-provoking concepts go, it’s a beauty: wise and elegant, and – if you think about it long enough – thoroughly sensible. There’s a reason they labeled that guy a genius.

And let’s be honest: it wasn’t for his wardrobe choices.

Although some of those sweaters were pretty damn sharp.

In one sentence, he captured the essence of time as a stepwise element of human awareness. My world view gives it a slightly different spin: time is a commodity unrivaled by anything in the universe. It’s the only currency of which you can never earn more, and you’ll never end up with a surplus of it by working harder to acquire it. In fact, the opposite is true: the harder you push forward in your pursuit of gaining time, the quicker you end up losing it.

Whoa. That’s kind of heavy.

This, too: You can measure the prosperity of a culture not just in its ready access to necessities and luxuries, but also in the ability of its people to exert control over how their time is spent. It’s become a twenty-first century norm to double-up on everything in an attempt to find more time somewhere. But it’ll never happen. You get the time you’re given, and it’s up to you to figure out the most fulfilling way to spend it while you still have enough of it to enjoy.

Maybe you can tell that this time thing is a pretty significant concept to me.

Undoubtedly, it is for you, too.

My belief is that each of us is a clock; our windings are finite, and we’re all ticking away our moments at the pace we set for ourselves. It fluctuates according to situation, of course; sometimes it rushes right by without us being aware of it doing so, and sometimes it drags along at an excruciatingly unhurried speed. No matter the rate at which it moves, it all comes with a defined limit that none of us is going to exceed. And because of this, possibly the greatest mystery of life is how much time do we truly have? Barring any extreme circumstances, almost everything else we come into the world with can be managed or controlled in some way. But we’re losing moments from the very first one, without a single hope of ever reclaiming any of them at all.

Sometimes, though, if we’re lucky enough, we end up with an opportunity to reset our own respective timepiece. Sometimes we get to wind the spring again and start anew, with a greater appreciation for the meaning of each moment as it arrives.

Sometimes, we actually do get a second chance. And with it, more time.

My friend Karen did.

She was in the golden hour of her life, her hands and her heart and her head filled with wonderstuff– a beautiful family, a slew of friends and a long list of creative undertakings to make use of her myriad talents. And then, with little discernible warning, something dire pulled the pin and stopped her clock.

For those of us who care about her, it stopped ours as well.

She hovered, and we hung, wondering how long and how severe her ordeal would be. There’s nothing like the prospect of a friend losing the remainder of her moments – and her husband and daughters losing the rest of theirs with her – to remind you of just how important your own moments are. Luckily and happily for us all, she pushed through it.

She’s a badass like that.

Whatever force exists within her, whatever power kept her fighting for her life when it was insistent on surrendering, it recognized that she wasn’t finished with her moments. She woke up with a whole new set of them. That’s not to say some of those moments aren’t difficult or without challenges. Of course they are. But I know for a fact she isn’t wasting or overlooking or wishing away a single one. She has done nothing less than restart her own timepiece through sheer force of will, zest for life and utter obstinance. It’s been incredible to watch her come back to the world with a renewed sense of How to Live Your Moments Well. She’s embracing it all with her clock once more fully wound, and her heart barreling full speed ahead.

We would all be wise to take a lesson from her: If you’re ever faced with the opportunity to defy a cosmic phenomenon as precious and unyielding as time, this would be the way to do it.

I don’t call her Miracle for nothing.

5757470

Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born, but that all changed once he learned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s not known for giving straight answers, but no one listens much to him anyway, so it all evens out. He’s hard at work on his next big novel…but really, aren’t we all?

Connect with Steven: Website, Twitter, Facebook