Alice Buehring of Gold Bar, Washington
After taking a bad fall in January 1999, I required surgery to replace the humeral head in my right shoulder. Unfortunately, my recovery was painful and mostly unsuccessful. By May 1999, I discovered why. It turned out that I developed a Pseudomonas A infection in the surgical site, which was fast becoming septic. I spent the next week in the hospital on IV antibiotics to treat the infection. I was discharged to continue my IV treatments at home for another six weeks followed by oral antibiotics for another six weeks.
By the end of these treatments, I hoped that the worst was behind me. But my recovery continued to be painful and difficult. For the next six years, I struggled to find relief. I began to work with some natural and alternative health care practitioners who believed my arm was still infected. Most of the time my arm hurt enough to require pain medication and was periodically hot. I would slowly gain range of motion in my arm, only to lose it again. Each year I would return to my surgeon when the pain became unbearable. And each time he would insist that the infection was no longer present and send me home with more pain medication.
In May 2004, my pain became impossible to endure. I returned to my doctor who took another X-ray of my arm and finally determined that the infection was still present. By then, the infection had eaten through my humerus bone and destroyed my rotator cuff. I underwent a second surgery to remove the prosthesis, spent three days in the hospital recuperating and then continued my IV antibiotic treatments at home for another six weeks. Once the infection cleared up, I had a third surgery to insert a new prosthesis and then began physical therapy. Finally, I was infection free.
My hospital infection experience has had a lasting impact. I now have only a 20 percent range of motion in my dominant arm, which has limited my abilities in my daily life and at work and I still haven’t gotten my energy back. I am grateful to be alive, that I still have an arm, and that the damage was not more extensive, but angry that an infection I caught in the hospital turned my life upside down for so long. I continue to live my life upside down.