The personal stories included here follow the example of Lynn Brown who led the way in raising the awareness of the dangers of Gentamicin.
Click on a name to read their story.
SANDY - VIRGINIA: I was in an auto accident when I was 24 years old that broke my back and left me with partial paralysis in my legs. I was told by some nurses in the hospital that I would never walk again. I ignored this and struggled long and hard to learn to walk again on forearm crutches. I began my life over and vowed to live a “normal” life with this disability. I was married and carried two children on crutches. I decided to give back by helping others like me to “normalize” their lives. I went back to school and achieved a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. My children were grown and my dream to help others like me was being realized. I obtained a job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and was finally realizing my dream!!
After working about four years, I had a nasty ulcer on my foot so went to a wound care specialist. She referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who stated it seemed I had osteomylitis and needed to have surgery. I went in for one day surgery, my foot was debrided and I was to be home on medical leave for six weeks on IV antibiotics. I accepted this although I would miss work very much.
About three weeks of being home, I noticed severe weakness and was having difficulty maneuvering. I felt like I was drunk. I told the home health nurse who came in weekly to take labs and she said nothing. She seemed to note it on her computer and thought the problems arose because I had been sedentary. This was my thought too. I used an electric scooter to go back to the doctor for the surgical follow up as I was having such a hard time walking. During this period I was never told that my difficulty with walking and balance could be related to the antibiotic gentamicin.
I went back to work and almost fell several times. I could not do my job. Everyone I worked with told me I just came back too soon and should go home. I finally left early afternoon as I could not even get my thoughts together. Something was terribly wrong and I could not understand what was going on. I went to an urgent care center and was told my potassium level was low, given high dose potassium tablets and told I should be better in a few days.. Several days passed and I returned no better to Urgent Care. Another doctor on call gave me a print out that stated I had gentamicin ototoxicity. This doctor told me to follow up with my primary care physician and an ENT.
I went home and looked for gentamicin ototoxicity on the computer assuming it would just clear my system soon and was dumbfounded!!! This was a permanent disorder. I sat and stared at the computer with tears in my eyes. I felt suicidal for the first time in my life. This was something I could not fight. Permanent??? Unbelievable!!! I was the positive person everyone came to with their troubles. I went to my PCP and ENT. My diagnosis from Urgent Care was correct. This was in March 2011. I have had some vestibular rehabilitation and work on this at home. I am currently fighting to return to work but the doctor cautiously told me only part time from home and no driving. He told me to accept that my outreach is over. My life will never be the same. Thank goodness I found Wobblers as they were literally life savers. They understand what I am talking about. They know how hard this is.