Aaron was relaxing after his day time sleep when I returned, and I went straight to bed with aching joints and malaise. I was sure I had a 24-hour virus. It certainly was – a deadly one! At 5pm Aaron left for his night shift, and I felt better. I returned to bed after he left, my flatmates came home at 6pm, when I told one I had a flu. As the night progressed I continually returned to the kitchen to refill my water bottle. I noticed on one journey that the boys had gone to bed. Eventually I had to crawl, I was so thirsty, and too giddy to stand. Diarrhoea sent me to the toilet frequently in the early hours. While washing my hands I thought I saw purplish spots on my face in the mirror. However, I didn’t have my glasses on, and the photophobia made me think I was seeing things. By the time Aaron found me and called the ambulance at 8am, I was incontinent of faeces and my body was purple with the characteristic septicaemic rash. That was some 18 hours after my first flu like symptom.
I returned to Australia in October, with Aaron, and spent one month in the rehabilitation hospital in Perth, where I was prescribed prosthetic legs, given physiotherapy and occupational therapy for my scars. I stopped wearing pressure garments after two years, and my scar treatment is finally over – I’m stuck with them now! I remain a regular wheelchair user, as the skin grafts on my stumps are seriously affecting my use of prosthetics. I returned to work at the beginning of November 2001, over one year later, in a nursing telephone triage job. I work as a Research Nurse part-time, and as a part-time Community Project Officer for Amputees in Action.
What happened to me was one thing. Yet what has happened every day of my life ever since is far more profound. The intense pain of my hospitalisation and the complications I experienced have faded in my memory, but the struggle of life in a wheelchair, of public reactions to my disability, to the beaurocratic processing of getting back into the workforce, and getting my license back has taken an immense period of my young life to adapt to.