Returning Home: Susan’s QCH Story

A remarkable story about a patient who recovered from necrotizing fasciitis 

Susan’s son, Jackson, was born at home in a room with candles and soft music. Susan and Jackson bonded with days of skin-on-skin time. Then, four days after Jackson’s birth, Susan developed terrible knee pain and spiked a fever of 103F. She sought medical advice and was sent home with painkillers.

The next day her knee was twice the size and she couldn’t put any weight on it. The high fever persisted. She came to the Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) Emergency Department (ED) where she was quickly triaged and seen by Dr. McGee. “I’ll never forget him,” said Susan. “He’s my hero.”

Within hours she was seen by Dr. Rajiv Prihar, who took Susan into surgery. Just days following her unmedicated home labour, Susan was given an epidural, but was awake and able to watch the doctors perform surgery to remove an infection from her knee.

The cultures taken during surgery identified necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh eating disease — a contagious and serious infection, Dr. Varghese explained to Susan. She was taken back into the Operating Room (OR) to have more tissue removed from her calf. The next 24 hours would be critical.

For the next 16 days Susan recovered on the unit and could not see Jackson, who was still just a couple of weeks old. The risk of contagion was too high. Susan’s stay included Easter weekend and “the nurses were incredible,” she said. “Most patients had been discharged. It was pretty quiet. It was my 11th or 12th night there. The nurses treated me to a shampoo and foot massage – it was bliss.”

On the 18th day Susan went home with a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line to deliver antibiotics for three months. Five days later, she woke up to an intense burning sensation in her calf and returned to the QCH ED where she was immediately taken to surgery so Dr. Prihar could remove more infected tissue.

“The care and compassion I had from Dr. Prihar was something I’d never experienced before,” said Susan. “Dr. Prihar would stop and check on me on his way out, car keys in hand. He asked if I was in pain, how I was feeling mentally and if I’d video chatted with Jackson that day.”

Susan and her son, Jackson

Susan went home after another eight days in hospital. Away from her son for a long time, she says that she didn’t know how to hold him or how to feed him. Her husband had to show her. Jon had been a single dad to a newborn.

She returned weekly for four months to see Dr. Varghese. Around the third month, Susan asked him about the infection. Dr. Varghese shared that, had the infection gone up her leg from her knee rather than down, her outcome could have been much different.

During the ten months following discharge Susan recovered — progressing from using a walker, to crutches, to a cane. Five years later, Susan is grateful to the QCH team.

“Thank you is not enough. I’m alive. I have my leg. I have my life. I am especially grateful to Drs. McGee, Prihar and Varghese. I owe them my life. They are rock stars to me. They acted so quickly to ensure that I got home to my baby.”

Tens of thousands of patients rely on Queensway Carleton Hospital’s surgical team each year. To ensure we meet this growing need, and continue to advance surgery and patient care for our community, it is essential that we have the best and latest surgical equipment. This is why we are calling on you to help us upgrade our 11 surgical suites. 

Learn more about our Advancing Surgery Campaign.