Matt Dernlan

     This fall, Matt was admitted to  Ohio State's Wexler Medical Center with a life-threatening blood infection which resulted in multiple medical issues including the loss of function in his legs.

     Emergency surgery was performed the morning of September 30, 2021 to remove a mass in his back that we now know was an acute intramedullary spinal cord abscess with spinal arterial occlusion.  This is an extremely rare condition with less than 200 cases reported in the US over the past 100 years.  

     The doctors found 15-20 lesions in Matt's brain,  clots in his lungs, an abscess against his heart, and a tear in his esophageal wall.  For 19 days Matt was in OSU's ICU Neuro Unit  Brain and Spine Hospital after which he spent 28 days in OSU's Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital. 

     After almost two months, Matt was released to come home where he is now recovering with his family and undergoing extensive physical rehab.  

     This gofundme campaign will be used to help cover Matt's medical expenses, a wheelchair conversion vehicle, and modifications to the house.  

Below are more details and an update from Matt.

It's hard to know where to begin but let's start with what happened medically.

I was having fever, chills, and loss of appetite for a week.  Then early one morning Carie noticed a change in my speech and behavior and took me to the Marysville ER.  I was having severe pain in my chest and upper back. Due to some information that Carie was able to provide to the ER Doctor, they began treating me right away for a possible infection which turned out to be exactly how I would be treated long term.  I was transported from Memorial in Marysville, Ohio to OSU's Brain and Spine Unit.  I have no memory of the next couple of days but Carie has filled me in.  

At first they did not have a diagnosis, but were treating me for a viral brain infection, maybe meningitis, and began running all types of scans and blood work including a spinal tap to test my spinal fluid. An MRI revealed 15-20 lesions or tears on my brain. They were unsure what had caused them and were still waiting on the cultures to develop from the spinal tap.   They also said that I had blood sepsis or an infection in my blood but they were not sure of the cause or the type of bacteria. Days later, I was losing mobility in my right leg and having continued intense pain in my chest and upper back. By the next morning, I had lost all feeling and movement in both my legs.  

A very insistent and intuitive Infectious Disease Doctor fast tracked me to the head of the line for a scan of my entire spine. The pain from lying flat was so intense that the scan almost couldn't be performed, but the doctor was adamant that it needed to be done, and finally around 10pm it happened.  2:00am the scan was read by a technician and found a pocket of what they thought might be an infection or possibly cancer in my spine.  6:00am a Neuro Doctor examined me and said he was gathering info for the Neurosurgery team about how they would proceed.  8:30am a Neurosurgeon came into the room and wouldn't let the nurses complete all the covid protocols and said I had to go to surgery now.  

By this time I was beginning to lose feeling in my hands. Surgery involved cutting open my back somehow getting to my spinal cord, cutting it in two and flushing out all the infection.  A sample of that fluid would later reveal that the bacteria streptococcus was the cause of my infection.  From surgery I was taken to the Neuro ICU at OSU's James.  The doctors there told me there were less than 100 documented cases of my particular spinal abscess and because they were so puzzled on how all this happened they dubbed me the "most interesting patient in the ICU".    Side note: OSU thought I was so "interesting" they asked  permission to do a case study on my "intramedullary abscess" (spinal abscess)  that would be published in medical journals.

Days passed in the ICU and the pain in my chest continued. Another scan found another abscess deep in my chest behind/beside my heart.  They performed a procedure on my windpipe and my esophagus and found a small perforation in my esophagus and placed a stent (very similar to a heart stent) to cover the perforation and allow healing.  A feeding tube was placed in my stomach at this time and I was put on a liquid diet as swallowing and talking were extremely painful due to all the pressure from the abscess. 

The doctors left that abscess there as surgery would have involved opening up my chest and possibly caused more harm than good in my current condition.  Although they do not know the contents of my chest abscess the doctors hope that my current regimen of 2 different antibiotics and an antifungal will shrink it until it disappears totally.  More days passed and more difficulty breathing so more scans. They revealed that I had multiple blood clots in my lungs.  More scans needed done on my legs and another possible surgery loomed if more clots were found.  Thankfully no more clots in my legs, and no surgery was needed at that time. 

After 7 days in the ICU I was taken back to OSU's Brain and Spine unit.  Still no motor function below my chest, a new interesting scar behind my neck, a feeding tube, a stent and no real answers about how this infection had gotten into my blood and how long it had been there. 

I  was released from the hospital October 14, twenty days after walking into the Marysville ER.  From ther I went to Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital where I had 3-4 hours of rehab a day and round the clock medical care.    They kept me very busy with Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and several others. 

I came home on Nov 19.  Since then, therapy and recovery has been focused on making me independent, gaining strength, working on my mental strength, and of course regaining motor function in my legs.  I'm told that nerves heal very slowly and it may be months to a year before they can know more fully about how much I will recover.  Also, due to my rare injury, they do not have many other cases to compare my recovery with. I am making small gains every day.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all your love and support.  Thank you for your personal messages, cards, gifts, and prayers. 


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Organizer and beneficiary

Jeff Dernlan 
Oreland, PA
Carie Dernlan 

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