Tammy is a 49-year-old woman. She is a ray of sunshine and hope. She is Mother of one and a Grandmother of four. She is an Aunt who loves to spoil her nieces and nephews. She is a lady whose whole life was turned upside down. She is a miracle.
Tammy woke up on Sunday morning, a week before her 48th birthday with severe stomach cramping, vomiting, and extreme weakness. She was not one to go to the ER or the doctor over illnesses such as a stomach virus, but this particular morning, she made the decision to go. She called her son and asked him to take her to the ER. He contacted 911 to assist her down the stairs and out of her home. The EMT workers proceeded to take her vitals on the way to the hospital but her blood sugar would not read on the monitor; it was over 600. Once at the hospital, she asked to use the restroom and when turned to get out of the bed, the nurse noticed a sore on her back. Tammy had no idea what it was or where it had come from. She was sent to X-ray and was immediately diagnosed with Necrotizing Fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and her blood sugar was up to 1100. That was the last thing she remembered. She was kept in a coma for over a day because of the extensive surgery that had to occur to remove skin and tissue from her entire abdominal area, one side to the other. The doctors informed her family she wouldn’t make it through surgery. She did. The doctors then informed her family she wouldn’t survive after the surgery. She did. The doctors informed Tammy it would take a year to a year and a half to heal. It took her six months. Tammy is a miracle.
Tammy then set a goal to get out of the nursing home before her next birthday. She became impatient many times and frustrated with her location and situation. She was placed in McDowell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center 3 ½ hours away from her home. Why, because this was the only nursing home in the State who would agree to take her from the hospital due to the extensive treatment and care she required. She wanted to come home, but she soon came to realize that things happen for a reason. During her time at the nursing home, she developed strong friendships with the nursing and rehabilitation staff. She considered, and still considers, them family. She built up her strength, she had plastic surgery, she received treatment for an infected toe, and she was approved for her Social Security Disability after the first application during her time at the nursing home. Every time she pushed and cried to go home, she had the support of her team, including her Transition Coordinator, encouraging her to complete the program and receive the assistance she needed once she returned home. She has stated “Sam made it happen”; her transition coordinator made sure she returned home before her next birthday.
Tammy has reported her life has changed in so many ways. For instance, she has to have so many medications just to get by during the day. She can no longer work but she now has the time and opportunity to visit with family and do things with them she was unable to do before her hospitalization. Her biggest struggle is adjusting to what she can and cannot do but she continues to push herself to get better.
When it was asked of Tammy what she would tell someone who wants to return to their own home in the community, she stated, “No. 1: work the program. No. 2: Listen-those that are helping have knowledge of the program. Sam was up front with the process and timelines and he didn’t sugarcoat anything. He was very knowledgeable of all things and very helpful” She also added, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, there are no dumb questions”.
One of the final things Tammy had to say was, “it can be scary to be back home, but I just have to take things one day at a time”.