Melanie Vargas, a Coalinga resident, has been fighting a war with diabetes this year, and is now facing the latest battle: SEPSIS. Vargas underwent emergency surgery at 4 AM on Friday, July 12, and is under care at Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia.
She gave up her leg when it was amputated weeks ago, and has been facing the challenges of recovery with determination. During various phases of recuperation, Vargas complained of extreme pain and fatigue. She had fevers, and many other challenges.
It was discovered last night that she is suffering from sepsis. This is the body’s bizarrely intense response to infection, far from normal. It is a life-threatening medical emergency.
Sepsis can happen when an infection you already anywhere in your body, triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death if not treated properly.
Melanie thanks her friends for encouragement and support.
“So many people have reached out to me,” she said. “I am so thankful.”
Melanie and her family (three children and her husband) request prayer and support.
Editorial & Personal remark from Editor:
Melanie and I have been friends for years, and I have watched her face challenges and hurdles with energy and confidence. Seeing her battle with this latest illness, the death of her foot, has been difficult to watch, knowing there’s really nothing I can do.
She began writing “The Death of My Foot” a few weeks ago when she was in a particularly tough time. I edited it and put it into the newspaper as a human interest story. Further pieces will appear in future issues.
Some of our readers want to know how they can help. We have started a facebook fundraiser which is posted on our facebook page.
The Death of My Foot
By Melanie Vargas
Edited By Mary Blyth Jones
I have lived in Coalinga for six years. My husband, Steven and I have been married almost five years but we have been together for almost 20. We have three kids: Steven Jr. is 14, Miracle is 13, and Daniel is 11. I’m from Fresno but moved to Huron when I was 18.
Ever since I was a kid, I have had a passion for children with disabilities. I LOVE to volunteer and help people. I like to leave a smile on everyone’s face. I was in Relay for Life Coalinga for three years. The last year, I served as Survivor Chairman.
I love to craft. If I could do anything in this world, I would open up a bakery / craft store and only employ special needs people.
The months before, “Please. Something is wrong with my leg. Help me,” I said to four different doctors. Then I would hear the very same thing: “You’re too young for all of this.”
December hit and with many more days of pain I ended up in the hospital twice to be poked and prodded.
They told me it was MRSA in my foot and told me to take these antibiotics. “You will be better,” they said.
But it never was. Three days after finishing the antibiotics, it came back with a vengeance.
Christmas day was the worst pain of my life. The day after Christmas, I was back in the hospital. The black on my toe was three times bigger than before and it stunk bad.
MRSA again, they told me. This time they decided to poke it and pull some infection out to test it. At 4 AM they came in and said, “Its MRSA again. We wanted to admit you for a full MRSA work up but the hospitalist said your levels are on the low side so you can go
home and treat it. 4 pills, 3 times a day for 3 weeks.”
I started having more good days than bad but then, five days after my treatment “it” was back and bigger than ever.
The pain, to try to describe it… It was something like walking on hot coals with nails in my foot. This was Saturday, March 9th, but I told myself you can make it. I was finally going to see the podiatrist again that Tuesday. I got some kind of mommy power and cleaned my house all day. I was in pain, but somehow I could take it. My hubby and kids kept telling me to sit down.
That night I went to bed so tired but so proud of what I had accomplished.
At 2:30 Sunday morning I woke up. The pain in my foot was excruciating. It was so bad that I was scared to take off my sock and look. I got up took Tylenol and got back into bed.
I laid awake for two or three hours crying and praying. Somehow, I fell back to sleep. At 8:15 AM, I shot out of bed waking up my husband. The pain was incredible. I was crying my eyes out. It hurt so bad but I was still to scared to look at my foot.
Steven (my husband) told me that I needed to go to the hospital. I was so tired of hospitals. Being there for 12 hours and being poked and prodded… damn it! I was finally going to see the doctor. I was too tired to go.
That lasted for about 30 minutes until it was hurting so bad that I finally had the nerve to look at my foot. It was black and purple. It hurt and smelled like death. It was disgusting. I woke up my kids and told them I had to go back to the hospital.
“But don’t worry,” I said. “I just need more antibiotics and I’ll be home soon.”
Because that’s what had happened the last five times I had been to the hospital. I didn’t want drama so I had my hubby take me to the fire department and off I went.
This time is different. As soon as the nurse saw my foot, she called in a doctor and I was put in the back if the hospital.
I was thinking, “Yay! I won’t be here all day.” But then a lady having a heart attack came in. I could hear them for what felt like hours trying to save her but they couldn’t. I was already pumped up on pain meds but this lady’s death made me so emotional.
The doctor finally came in. He was so apologetic about taking so long but I so understood. He looked at my foot and grabbed my knee and said, “Sweetie I need to send you for an MRI and an ultrasound on your legs.
I looked at him and said, “OK, but what to do you think is going on?”
He smiled and said, “Let me worry about that for now. You just relax. We’ll do the tests and I will be with you when I can. I’m going to give you more pain meds and some anxiety medication to help you relax.”
I was still emotional over that poor lady who had passed. I did my tests and everyone was being so nice to me. Or I was so high from the meds that I didn’t notice. Four hours later, the doctor walked in. He looked sad.
He grabbed my knee and said, “Well sweetie, I need to admit you to the hospital and a surgeon will be in here soon to talk with you.”
I was like, “OK. It’s here I am, losing my toe,” but I was OK with that. Three more hours went by. They took me upstairs and when I got to my room I was kind of mad. I asked,
“What’s going on?”
The nurse said, “No one has talked to you yet?”
I started talking to her and told her everything that I had been told.
She held my hand and said, “Sweetie. They are setting you up for an amputation.
I was like, “OK. I’m losing my toe. No big deal.”
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew; it was early morning. I woke up to a surgeon in my room. He told me who he was and that he would do my surgery the next day which was Tuesday, March 12.
I asked him how much of my foot was he going to take. He explained to me that it was not that simple.
“It’s all dead. I have to take two inches above all the death. So it’s going to take you to about here …” and he drew a line in the middle of my calf.
I fell back asleep. I think because of all the medications. When I woke up, I thought it was all a dream. I didn’t want to look to see if he really did draw on my leg. I called a handful of people because I couldn’t do this alone.
Like this was major. When I was talking to my kids, my Daniel got so upset with me. He said, “But mom. You promised this was just going to be like the other times. “You need to come home already.”
I broke down had them all sit in the living room and I was on speaker. I told my kids what was going on. I tried my best not to cry but I choked up a few times.
You could hear a dang pin drop all my kids were silent and it broke my heart. They wanted to come see me right then but they couldn’t. There was no gas to bring them.
I became OK with the fact that not only was this the biggest surgery of my life, but I was going to have to do it alone.
The morning before my surgery, my heart Rita Palacious and her hubby my Tio Six came to see me. I was happy and calm cause I already knew if I had to do this, I needed my Rita to be with me. She was my rock already through so many hard times in my life. I just knew it would be easier if she was here holing my hand. When they left once again I was
alone I had to do this on my own.
As the clock struck closer to 3 PM, my surgery time. I was scared and alone. It was just me, God and my prayers.
They wheeled me out for my surgery. By now I couldn’t put any weight on my leg and even the pain medications were only working a tiny bit. After they checked me in for surgery and literally 2 minutes before they were ready to take me in. The nurse said, “Someone wants to see you.” I couldn’t think of who it might be and I asked who it was.
“I forgot her name. I’m sorry,” she said. “I said it’s okay, just send her in.”
All my prayers worked because right then, in walks my pastor Patty. The people closest to me know that she, I don’t know, she does something – whatever – and always makes me smile. She makes my heart just big and happy. We say a prayer together, shared a little joke and off I go, happy and content. I know Patty will be here waiting for me. I felt so much better.
Waking up from surgery I was pain free. I don’t re-member going to my room, but I do remember opening my eyes to see my Pastor Patty.
“I made it! I feel great!” Thoughts rolled through my mind. “Now it’s time to take on this new challenge. I can do this. God answered my prayers and I’m going to do what He wants me to.”
God saved me once again. I knew it by seeing my ‘angel’ Patty. But it was not only that.
All three of my kids were there. My husband and his mother and his brother were there too. My heart was happy. Hugging my kids at that moment was the best hug I have ever had. My kids are my world. At that moment, I said, “I have to get on my feet again and
do what I promised. I need to change the world for my precious babies.
They had put their money together and bought me a big unicorn stuffed animal from Big 5. It was one of those cute ones with the big eyes. They said it was so even when they were not there with me, I would have something to hug. They couldn’t stay very long be-
cause it was getting really dark and my hubby can’t see well in the dark. They left and then, emotions started to hit me.
It was a good thing my appetite distracted me. I wanted food so bad! My best friend, Gordie, and my brother-in-law, Juan, were on their way to the hospital to save the day. They were coming with my tomato soup from Panera. That’s my soup. No matter what, I can always eat that and enjoy it. When they showed up, we all ate dinner together and everything was normal.
Gordie had got me the softest blanket in the world. We had a good visit. My brother- in-law said ‘bye to me and walked out. Then it was just me and my Gordie. Gordie is the person who I have known the longest in my life. She has been there to ride every wave I have ever been on. That’s when I finally broke.
I broke down I cried. “How the hell am I going to do this? How? I don’t have a (*) leg anymore. I can’t walk. I can’t drive. I can’t do anything anymore.”
Visiting time was over and Gordie had to leave. I sucked up all my tears and said good-bye to her. It was 9 PM and I was all alone. Again. I tried my best to hold it together but I lost it. Around midnight I was worn down and tired. All I could do was scream. I couldn’t hold it in. I was mad at the world. I had been begging for help for months.
Why was no one listening?
How could this have happened?
Thinking back, I feel sorry for all my nurses that night. I was horrible. All they could say was they understand I was just trying to accept the new me.
That night was the hardest night of my life. I was alone and so many crazy thoughts were running through my head that night I felt helpless. I think the CNA (certified Nursing Assistant) got tired of me.
I was being pumped full of IVs and had to pee like every hour. One of those times, I called the nurses’ station six times and begged them to bring me the bed pan. After a good half hour, I couldn’t wait any longer and peed all over myself. Ihad never felt more helpless in my life.
I called again to let them know about the situation. They said, “You already went. Now you don’t need to go anymore.” And that was it.
An hour later they came to check my vitals. The CNA told me when she was done with all the vitals, that she would come clean me up later.
I cried and told her I had been sitting there in my piss for an hour.
“I can’t move my legs, and I had to pee again,” I told her.
The CNA said, “Just pee on yourself. You are already messed up. I’ll be back soon.” She left the room.
I felt gross and helpless. I was so mad. Then shift c h a n g e hit and the staff changed. So now I was still sitting in wet sheets and gown for two and a half hours. Just the smell alone was killing me. And the worse thing was, I had to pee again.
I kept pushing the call button. I just couldn’t pee on myself again. Even the bandages on my leg where my leg had been amputated were wet. Gross. I was now able to move my legs again. I had already thrown my fuzzy blanket that Gordie had got me and my unicorn from my kids in the chair near my bed so I would not get them wet.
My new CNA walked in and she was in shock. I cried and begged her to help me. I think she almost had tears in her eyes when she said, “I’m sorry. Hold on just a few more minutes. I need to go get the nursing supervisor. And I will need some supplies to help me clean you up.”
The nursing supervisor and my new CNA cleaned me up really nicely. I could feel my legs now. And I didn’t want to use the bed pan anymore. So they set up a bedside commode. I struggled but with the walker I was able to stand up and sit down. I knew I would have a lot of new things to learn, if this was anything like the days to come.