Jessica's Spinal Infection Fight

Hello everyone! My name is Jessica. I am a 30 year old wife and mother to two children ages 4 and 7. Unfortunately, due to a bad draw of genetics I have a horrible back. I had my first lumbar laminectomy at age 24 due to a "massive" herniated disk at L5 - S1. I had two more laminectomies to correct nerve pain and foot drop.

In March of this year, I developed another foot drop and was unable to walk. I went to the ER and had an MRI which showed a severe herniated disk and severe foraminal stenosis (basically the nerve was being strangled, causing the symptoms). I had no choice but to have a fusion.

I had a fusion at L5 - S1 and since then have had nothing but a living nightmare of complications. Four days after the surgery I was still in the hospital and was unable to urinate. They did a STAT MRI which showed a massive pooling of blood in the spinal canal. Apparently one of the internal sutures had popped. The blood was putting so much pressure on my spinal cord i developed cauda equina syndrome, a medical emergency. I was taken to surgery straight away to correct it.  A surgery that should have been a 4 day stay turned into 13 days. And it gets worse from there...

About 11 weeks after surgery I was feeling well enough to go back to work. I am a nurse on a neurosurgical floor. So I worked a few shifts. The 4th shift I worked I felt absolutely horrible. I was pale, weak and clammy. I took my vitals and my heart rate was very high and my temperature was 102.3. Needless to say, I left work .

The next day I was still feeling lousy and while dressing, I noticed a large swelling to my back near my incision. It was also warm and red. I called my neurosurgeon and the PA on call said to try icing the area and take Tylenol and "ride it out" over the weekend. By Tuesday I was feeling even worse.

I went to the ER because now the swelling was much larger, nearly the size of a grapefruit, hot, red and I was feeling horrible. An MRI revealed an abscess concerning for infection. Initially the surgical team kinda blew it off and said to just manage it with antibiotics. While in the hospital though the infectious disease doctor and medical doctor recommended it get drained. So I went down to interventional radiology and had the pocket drained. They pulled out nearly 50cc of pus-like fluid and sent it to the lab for culture. The swelling went down considerably... until the following day...

So the next day I go to the bathroom and look at my back in the mirror. The grapefruit was back! At this time the surgical team decided to do a washout in the operating room.

I have had a total of THREE surgeries since June to clean out the abscess area. The first one they stapled me shut. The second and third surgery they left open and put a wound vac to help heal the area.  A wound vac uses pressure to both suck out fluid and heal tissue.  I had the wound vac for about 5 weeks.

The cultures from the aspiration and surgeries revealed a bacteria called mycobacterium bolletii.  This bacteria is rare, multi-drug resistant and hard to control. Most people need multiple surgeries and aspirations to get rid of it. And the source of my infection was the fusion that I had in March! I have been on home intravenous antibiotics since June and have to take oral antibiotics for at least the next year. 

From March to August I was receiving a very small percentage of pay which barely helped cover bills. We went through all of our savings. Then in October my short term disability was to transition to long term. I received a letter in the mail saying it was denied due to some new clauses that started with our new insurance on October 1st.  I had no choice but to go back to work.

I worked for a few shifts. Then on October 20th, I was sitting on the couch and I was feeling incredibly hot. I took my temperature and it was 105. I attempted to call my medical team with no call back so my husband took me to the ER again. (I have been in and out of the hospital 8 times since March secondary to this infection). I was in the hospital until the 30th. I attempted to go back to work the 31st. At around midnight I started feeling weak. I again looked pale, clammy. I had a fever once again. I went home and tried to rest. I started to feel even weaker around 3pm and my husband took me back to the ER. The ER doctor said I looked horrible and called a sepsis alert on me. My temp was 103 and I had chills, was pale and clammy once again.

This time around my infectious disease team wanted to check my entire spine. So I underwent A 2.5 hour MRI of my spine from neck to sacrum. They are attempting to rule out more abscesses because now I have a very tender area between my shoulder blades.

I am currently in the hospital on three very strong and expensive antibiotics reserved as "last resort" medications for complicated infections. I am living at a constant 7 pain level and it does to up to a 9 often.

Unfortunately due to me being so sick my husband has had to be the primary care taker of our household. He recently lost his job in order to take care of me.

We are in desperate need of assistance.... we have used almost all of our savings. I am unable to qualify for short term disability again because I hadn't been back at work long enough. My husband is looking for work but who knows when he will find another job.

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be one of the patients that I have selflessly cared for as a nurse.

I know this was a lengthy explanation but I have had so many complications since March....

Anything will help keep us in our home and pay for utilities and food. If you are unable to donate please share this page as your donation.

I would love to feel like i did in this family photo again... but for now I am quite ill and practically live in the hospital, making it impossible for me to work and enjoy life.
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Jessica Alicea 
Lake Worth, FL
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