Chris' Story of Survival

His Wife's Story


In June 2008, my husband Chris (who was 26 at the time) was riding his motorbike. He was doing about 60 km and the bike caught gravel and threw it sideways and his back tire caught the curb ejecting him from his bike. He was thrown into a street sign, he struck it right across his stomach with such force that it broke off at the ground. He was wearing his leather jacket and all the proper safety gear which saved his life.

He was rushed to the hospital and had to be aggressively resuscitated multiple times before being taken in for surgery. The surgery lasted approximately 9 hours. They had to remove most of his small intestine (he has only enough left to survive), his spleen, some of his large intestine and fix his liver. They also had to fix his arm and leg, removing most of the bicep from his one arm and put in a temporary colostomy bag. He lost 26 units of blood from internal bleeding during the surgery. The surgeon had said that the inside of his stomach was like "mush". He said the next 24 hours were critical to Chris' survival not only for infection (sepsis) but also to ensure the internal bleeding had stopped.

Chris was taken to ICU. He did survive the first night and awoke the next afternoon, he was still on the respirator but did write us notes. The next day was the scheduled surgery to permanently fix his arm and leg. His kidneys and liver were showing signs of failure, but he had stabilized enough to go ahead with the surgery. He was taken into surgery for approximately 2 hours. When he was brought back out we were told that they had discovered a red spot on his skin that seemed to be spreading rapidly. Infectious Disease was called in and the waiver was signed for Chris to be taken back into surgery for what they assumed was flesh eating disease. Another 45 minutes passed and Chris was brought out. The infection was a soft tissue infection and not flesh eating disease. A few days later, Chris was taken off of the ventilator and was finally able to talk to us. We have a son together that was only 4 at the time, but I hadn't brought him in yet because I didn't want him to see Chris like that if he didn't have to. Chris was finally moved up to the ward the next afternoon.

Our happiness did not last too long as Chris was not on the ward for even an hour and his fever spiked and he started to become very tired and slurry in speech. He kept having dreams that were real to him and was not making much sense. The next day the hospital phoned to say that Chris was being taken back down for emergency surgery. I got to the hospital just as they were bringing him down, I was told there was an infection and they needed to go back in and see what was happening, his stomach was swelling. After about an hour and a half, the surgeon came out to say there was some bleeding they had cleaned out and Chris needed to go back to ICU just to be monitored closely for awhile. They left the respirator in just in case they needed to go back in and also had left his stomach wound open in case they needed to operate again. A few days later, Chris' fever was higher than ever, he was swollen everywhere, his white blood cell count indicating an infection was through the roof but they couldn't find where the infection was. We were told that Chris had developed ARDS and needed to remain on the ventilator and be put into a medically induced coma so that the machines could let him rest for a bit. Day after day there was no progress, but things had not gotten a lot worse so that was at least a positive. After 1 month, they decided Chris could wake up and be taken off the ventilator, they had to insert a tube in his back because his uretor was damaged coming from one of his kidneys, which we were told would have to probably be removed at a later date. He did really well. He was transferred up to the ward, his stomach was still open and he had lost a lot of weight. He couldn't do anything. He spent 3 more months on the ward, he was nauseous all of the time and was constantly throwing up bile. They changed the dressing on his stomach from many different methods, they used a button method and the vac dressing and then finally a honey dressing that was amazing. It kept all of the infection away. He was finally able to come home on September 21st after lots of physio and infections and even a blood clot in his chest.

It was so great to have him home, although it wasn't without a frequent trip to the hospital for infections. In January 2009, Chris went back into the hospital to have his kidney removed and the colostomy bag reversed. It took the surgeon 4 hours to remove the kidney and 2 ribs as he described it to be like "cement" from all of the scar tissue and infections. Both were successful. Chris was moved up to the ward that night. He did great, the next morning he was at the edge of the bed and ready to get moving. After a few days he felt weaker. A day later when I spoke with him during my break at work, he was slurring his speech. The ICU team was once again on alert, but they were not sure what was wrong yet. I went and sat with him at the hospital that night, I knew something was very wrong. He couldn't stay awake, his monitors kept going off, his fever was high, his oxygen was low even though he was on nose prongs.

At 5 am I received the call from the hospital letting me know that the ICU team was on their way up to assess Chris and move him and he needed to be incubated, he could no longer receive enough oxygen. When I got there Chris was grey looking, he was gasping for air and the crash cart was sitting at the edge of his bed. There was a whole team of doctors around him. One doctor took me aside and told me Chris had severe double pneumonia, a collapsed lung and the ARDS had returned again. He had to be put back into a medically induced coma and on the ventilator. He was brought to ICU. Chris remained there for just under two weeks and he was once again able to be taken off the ventilator. He was eventually moved back to the ward and after infections and problems with his intestine, was able to come home almost 3 months later.

Chris still has some problems, but he lives a normal life and has returned to work. He had a partial bone transplant done in his knee last summer and it has helped with the pain. They did discover some hernias in his stomach but do not think they can be fixed. He recently underwent some tests to see if there was brain damage and they found none (the tests were done for 2 days with a psychologist). He does have short term memory loss that he notices and so do I, even though nothing came up in the tests, but other than mild pain from his other injuries, he is normal and lives a normal life. He did have a lung test done and to the specialists amazement, only 20% of his lungs were "dead" which he said was amazing for someone having ARDS once, little along twice.

It is possible to overcome it, not just once but twice, and it is possible to live a normal life after.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada