At age 30, after 12 years working in aged care I had reached the peak of my career. I became a Funding Educator in aged care, my dream job involving travelling around the country for work.
After a weeks of working in QLD I flew home and was having dinner with my parents when I began to feel a bit fluey and sick. Within hours I was vomiting, unable to look at light, severe headaches and temperatures of 40 degrees. After being taken to ED I was given every antibiotic possible while they ran tests to find out the cause. Within hours my body began shutting down and it wasn’t until then that the typical “purple” rash started on my legs. By then it was almost too late.
This is when they realised this could be Meningococcal Disease. I was placed in an induced coma and was on life support for 8 days when they got the confirmation that is was in fact meningococcal septicemia W strain, the most deadly with only 70% survival rate and usually kills within hours. During this time my family were told I wasn’t expected to survive and were told to say good bye to me multiple times. Then… I woke up! Singing John Farnham you’re the voice mind you! As my father had played his me his music whilst I was on life support.
I was in for the fight of my life, literally. Unable to move my hands, arms, legs I spent 59 days in ICU. Multi organ failure continued – heart, lungs, kidneys. I stopped eating and required a feeding tube – much to my dislike of this! Everyday was different and we never knew what to expect. Then I had the removal of my spleen and gall bladder after months of pain and vomiting.
Months of hospital and 18 operations to date, including amputations of fingers and toes and formations of fistula for my dialysis. Then came the biggest hit, an infection in my bowel which required emergency life saving surgery to remove 80% of my bowel leaving me with a stoma bag. This really knocked me down and I didn’t want to go on, I couldn’t take any more hits. After discussions with Dr’s nurses and psychiatrists about my wish to stop dialysis and I had the outcomes explained to me – without dialysis you will not survive past 2 weeks.
Taking it all on board and thinking about how I have survived so much, why give up now? Why cant I rebuild my life? Why not use my experience to help others? I have amazing family and friends and supporters. I can do this! I was put back on life support another 3 times. I have just had major surgery on my bowel again to save my life and have been told to expect this again over time.
I now remain on dialysis three days a week to survive until I am well enough to get a kidney transplant, unfortunately my parents are not suitable live donors. Each day is still different with chronic pain and damage that will affect me for life.
I am determined to use my story to inspire others and raise awareness of Meningococcal Disease and provide support to other survivors in my new role as Director of the board for the Violet Foundation. Which is a non for profit organisation. Whilst this is an unpaid job I am just so happy to be turning my negatives into positives and have a purpose in life again.