Earlier this year I saw a number of my friends on Facebook posting about another of my Facebook friends, Lisa Landis, who was apparently in the hospital battling for her life. To be honest, Lisa and I had never met (as far as I know), and we were merely connected on Facebook because of mutual friends. We never really interacted. We all probably have friends like that in our Facebook feed. But now some of my closer friends were concerned about Lisa, and since she is a local radio personality and therefore a local celebrity of sorts, I took notice. Through Facebook and some blogs, I followed Lisa’s battle and even shared it with my friends, knowing that many of them would be interested and concerned. Thankfully, Lisa has recovered and is home and doing well, but still has a long way to go. After giving her some time, and knowing that she was probably climbing the walls out of boredom, I reached out to her and asked her to share her story, particularly in relation to the role that social media played as a means of communication. I knew that just ten years ago, this would have been a very different situation. Thankfully, Lisa accepted my offer of having her write a post here, and here is her story.
While the summer of 2013 is unofficially over and the kids are back in school, I’m still hoping to squeeze some summertime fun out of September, and maybe even October, if I’m lucky. I love summer…weekends at the lake, family time at the beach, swimming, late day thunderstorms, fresh tomatoes and basil. Not this summer though. This one held different plans for me. Four weeks in intensive care in a hospital. I have never spent a single overnight at a hospital, let alone four weeks. Boy did I have a lot to learn. And I am indebted to family, friends and the Lancaster community for the countless prayers and encouragement that found its way to my smart phone at the crucial time thanks to social media.
I have not worked since the end of June when my right thigh was invaded by necrotizing fasciitis, aka, “the flesh-eating bacteria”. I was hospitalized for the month of July, had thirteen surgeries at two different institutions, spent two weeks with surgeons fighting to save my life, and another week fighting to save my leg. Thanks to the amazing power of prayer and the skilled doctors at Lancaster General Hospital & University of Pennsylvania, my life and my leg were saved.
It all started Sunday, June 23, one hour after I returned home from a family picnic. I thought I was coming down with the flu since I was experiencing symptoms like exhaustion, nausea, a fever, and an aching pain in my muscles. The flu diagnosis continued until Wednesday night the 26th when a light bulb suddenly went off in my head and I realized it wasn’t the flu, but rather a poisonous infection invading my leg. The pain at that point had greatly increased in my leg and I could barely stand for fear of passing out. I would find out later that my blood pressure was falling and my organs were failing and the flesh eating bacteria was starting to feast on my right thigh. I had been nursing a sore leg for several days that I thought was due to an unsupportive flip flop I had been wearing as a result of a minor toe injury. Thankfully, my sister was at home, because my husband was not, and she was able to rush me to LGH. I was told if I had arrived several hours later I most likely would have lost my life.
Boy did this mess with my plans! I was to be the kids tent emcee at the country’s largest Christian music festival, Creation Northeast. I was super excited for Creation Fest 2013, because my 15-year old son was traveling with me to help with kids games, emceeing, and working as the official Larry the Cucumber mascot. I was also set to deejay several events that week as well as emcee the Lititz 4th of July Fireworks celebration. First lesson learned, we are not in control of our destiny, let alone our 24 hour day.
Necrotizing fasciitis for the uneducated, which I was up until this summer, is a bacterial infection caused commonly by group A Strep bacteria, which is the same bacteria that causes common Strep throat. Normally the bacteria enter the body through an opening in the skin. In my case the doctors think the bacteria may have entered my body through a bug bite that I scratched open. According to the Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, the bacteria can also enter through weakened skin, like a bruise, blister, or abrasion. It causes excruciating pain, dangerously low blood pressure, confusion, high fever, and severe dehydration due to the toxins poisoning the body. NF must be treated in the hospital with antibiotic IV therapy and surgery. For most cases like mine many surgeries are required for the aggressive debridement, or removal of the affected tissue.
Since the beginning of my illness, I have been overwhelmed by the prayers, cards, flowers, well wishes, meals, etc. from the WJTL & Lancaster communities! Thanks to social media sites like Facebook, people learned of my situation and were able to spread the word and start praying, sending well wishes, and personal NF experiences our way.
Social media is a funny thing. I have a love hate relationship with sites like Facebook. I’m a private person so I don’t always want to share everything I’m doing each and every day, but then a situation like this comes along and it’s a fantastic tool for communicating with hundreds, even thousands of family and friends.
My husband decided to start posting updates on my condition on Facebook right from the beginning, not just to communicate my progress, but to connect with people at our great hour of need. For the first two weeks of my hospitalization, my poor husband was exhausted meeting with doctors, sometimes on an hourly basis, and having to make crucial decisions. We are blessed with a large family, but it got to the point where he was sharing the same updates over and over again and thought it was best to post updates so extended family as well as my co-workers, WJTL listeners, and friends would have answers to their questions. After that friends started sharing his posts and our online community of friends grew. The online community really did feel like one big family even though I have never met some of the WJTL listeners & Lancaster residents. John then started hearing from high school friends and family whom he hadn’t heard from in 20 or more years. Then some of those college friends starting sharing similar stories. Two in particular either worked in the medical field and had first hand knowledge of NF, or had a family member who had experienced the disease. Those connections, as well as the information from others who experienced NF played a huge role in helping John to make the right decisions for my condition.
Local media then jumped into the social media mix. Lancaster Newspapers did a few articles that friends, family, and listeners reposted. Local radio stations like WDAC, WROZ, & WIOV then started sharing my story on air as well as on social media. I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant to me.
If you have experienced a health crisis, you know that it’s often harder in the beginning on family & friends than the person with the illness. My family had to deal with the situation 24/7, sometimes without sleep, while I was in and out of sleep and often heavily medicated. My husband often used the train rides from Philadelphia to Lancaster to post his blog and connect with his social networking family. He tells me it was therapeutic and helped his mental state as well as helped him heal.
Today I am happy to report I am no longer home-bound. I go out twice a week for physical therapy, which is improving the mobility of my right leg. I’ve ditched my walker, which is liberating, and I’m gaining back more energy each and every day. I was just given the okay to start driving again and my surgeon said to start easing back into my normal daily routine pre-NF as my energy allows.
Each day I remind myself that I’m thankful to still be on this earth with my bad leg still intact. I remind myself especially when I’m down, zapped of energy, or feeling frustrated that my healing is not going fast enough. I am one lucky lady to have family and friends who cared enough to pray for my health and send well-wishes my way as well as share personal stories of illness and healing. Thank you social media for getting word out when it was so critical as well as now when I need that extra lift and that extra reminder to not take it too fast.
As I continue to ease back into my normal routine I am full of thanks so I thought I’d end this piece with many of the things I am thankful for here at summer 2013’s end. I am thankful for sister-in-laws who wash your hair, in-laws who play chauffeur, sisters who rush you to the ER, moms and dads who help with household chores and grocery shop, friends and family who cook you meals, friends who help you run errands, bosses who allow you to heal and take your time coming back to work, sons who says, “I love you mom and I’m glad your alive”, doctors with skilled hands, friends who send videos that make you smile, friends who clean, people who send cards to help you heal, and a community that prays. And that’s just a few of the things I’m thankful for this summer.
Like Woody loves Manhattan, I love Lancaster and can’t wait to run into you out in the community at the shops and restaurants, or over the airwaves, or on social media. Life IS good and I hope to be an encourager to you when you are in need just like you were for me.
Lisa Landis (Blowers) wakes up early weekdays to co-host the Get UP & Go Show with Fred McNaughton on FM 90.3 WJTL. She is also the creator & host of The Kids Cookie Break heard Saturday mornings 9-noon on WJTL. KCB aims to educate, empower and entertain kids of all ages. Lisa also is a commercial voice over artist for WGAL 8. When she’s not working, or zipping around in the KCB Cookie Smart Car, you will find Lisa hanging with her husband John & son Alex, most likely playing games, watching old movies, visiting favorite shops and restaurants in Lancaster, or cooking up something yummy in the kitchen. Lisa and her family also keep busy with church and community activities.