Mom's Fight: Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Our mom is living through everyone’s worse nightmare. Her fight against necrotizing fasciitis was featured on ABC Channel 7 news [San Francisco], Addictinginfo & Singtao USA News.

For the past week, she has been heavily sedated and completely unaware that she was stricken with a disease so rare but so insidious that many have taken to calling it “flesh-eating bacteria .” Necrotizing fasciitis, the official medical diagnosis, is a rapidly spreading and very serious bacterial infection that literally destroys the body’s tissues.

When our mom eventually wakes up from our nightmare, she’ll find that her world is much different from the one she'll be able to last recall leaving on the early morning hours of February 1, 2015. Then, she believed she was simply suffering from a serious case of the flu. Soon, she will find out that she was on death’s bed, and that her loved ones had to make the life-saving decision to amputate her right arm in order to save her vital organs, other limbs and possibly her life.

Our mom, Daisy, is a loving caring, compassionate mom, wife, sister, auntie, daughter, and friend. She is a very independent woman, a "one of a kind" professional; when she wasn’t working, she fulfilled her sole mission in life to help others.

Our mom was considered the primary caretaker for her mom and her mother-in-law. My maternal grandmother has been dealing with significant health issues for the past 30 years; including suffering many strokes, brain aneurysms, failing memory and other diseases that have left her unable to care for herself. My paternal grandmother also suffers from  significant medical issues, including  those caused from being involved in a traumatic accident that left her in a coma for 2 weeks. Without fail, my mom has been with both my grandmothers on an almost daily basis, selflessly tending to their many needs.

Our mom also helped our dad with everything because he too suffered a life changing event that left his left arm paralyzed. She was by his side when he was in the hospital in a coma. To this day their love for each other is just as strong, if not stronger. Our dad would do anything and everything for my mom that she would do for him.

Our mom’s generosity and selflessness extended beyond her family. She watched out for each and every neighbor, particularly her senior neighbors. She treated each and every one as if they were her parent. She regularly checked in on them; she regularly brought them shopping; she regularly showered them with love. Now the most caring person in our world needs our care.

On January 30, 2015, our mom began her courageous and life altering fight against necrotizing fasciitis. It all started that Friday when our mom felt under the weather so she rested up. On Saturday, we insisted that she see her doctor because she did not and could not go about her usual routine of picking up groceries and caring for our grandmothers. On Sunday her symptoms worsened; she was lethargic, nauseous, and her right arm was in excruciating pain.

When the doctor eventually saw our mom Sunday afternoon he diagnosed her with cellulitis, a skin infection. That night our worst fears came true; our mom woke up our dad begging him to take her to the ER. By the time she arrived at the hospital she was pale, weak, and dizzy.

Our mom’s condition quickly deteriorated after I arrived at the ER early Monday morning.  My mom’s right dominant arm was edematous (swollen) and red with blood blisters, she was diaphoretic (sweating), extremely hypotensive (low blood pressure), tachycardic (rapid heart rate), tachyepnic (rapid breathing), and very lethargic. Basically, everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. I had just graduated from nursing school and I knew that this was a life-threatening disease.

The doctors quickly ran numerous tests and found that she was in septic shock, renal failure, and fighting "necrotizing fasciitis"; the media and Hollywood like to call it "flesh-eating bacteria." The doctors immediately sent her to the operating room to perform a fasciotomy to relieve the swelling and to leech out the bacteria. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of her struggle to stay alive.

On days 1 and 2, the bacteria was so aggressive that it continued to eat away at her skin even after 2 surgeries to debride and excise the damaged skin. The toxins that the bacteria released were so toxic to her body that on the 3rd night in the ICU, the doctors had to operate on her bedside because she was too unstable to move to the surgical wing. This surgery involved extensive removal of the skin on her entire right arm. The next day when her ICU doctor spoke with me, I knew that it would not be good news. He said that our mom’s heart went into an arrhythmia, she had progressive renal failure which also lead to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (fluid overloaded into the lungs). Being in the medical field is a blessing and a curse; while I was knowledgeable about what was going on, I also knew that our mom was in a very critical condition and this hurt because she is my MOMMY.

On day 4 in the ICU her condition was declining and she was on 10 different i.v. medications to fight the infection and stabilize her condition. The surgeons met with my brother and me to recommend that we consent to amputate our mom's right dominant arm. They hoped this procedure would rid a majority of the toxins in her body and give her a chance at life and give us an opportunity to see our mom again. Nobody should ever be put in the situation of having to choose between amputating their mom’s arm or letting it stay on, but at the risk of death.

My family was concerned about our mom’s condition; we ultimately made the decision no child should ever have to make. We know our mom is a very strong willed and determined woman. She pulled through her 4th operation; but she is now without her right arm.
Because she has been heavily sedated since her admission, she has been completely unaware of what’s been going on. After surgery, she received dialysis to help decrease her fluid overload from kidney failure.

On day 6 our mom needed a blood transfusion to help increase her blood volume to try and wean her off all the vasopressors (blood pressure medication) they had given her to stabilize her blood pressure. She had been on vasopressors for so long that it started to compromise the blood flow to her other extremities which place them at risk for necrosis and amputation.

Currently, her condition has stabilized and she is more alert but she is still in critical condition. This nightmare has been difficult for our entire family. A family member has been by her side every day, often many family members, and we will continue to be there.

The reality is when our mom wakes up, her world will be very different from the world she last remembered. We will have to tell her how brave she was and how hard she fought; we will also have to tell her that she was close to death, and that we had to consent to the amputation of her right arm. We will have medical bills to deal with [ongoing care, prosthesis, therapy] and the practical reality that my mom will likely not be able to work. We are trying to raise funds to offset these expenses.

Our mom is strong; but we also want her to recover without having to worry about finances. Anything you can contribute will be a blessing and would greatly help. If you can't contribute, then your continued prayers would also be greatly appreciated. You can also help by sharing our story on social media.

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read this. And for supporter who would like to follow my mom through her journey, I will be posting updates on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

Thank you very much
- Son, Daughter, and Family

Necrotizing Fasciitis


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Organizer and beneficiary

Tiffany Lee 
San Francisco, CA
Daisy Lee 
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