A fight to survive

When Tracy Jolly went to Clovis Community Medical Center’s emergency department in April 2008, she thought she just had a bad case of the flu.  What she didn’t know was a deadly disease – Toxic Shock Syndrome – would leave her fighting for her life over the next few months.

Tracy and her husband Steve arrived in the emergency department and were shocked to learn just waiting a few more hours at home before coming to the hospital could have been a deadly decision. That’s when the whirlwind started and Tracy was rushed up to Clovis Community’s intensive care unit (ICU) for treatment.

In these first few months while Tracy, a once vibrant woman, was in the hospital, her family and friends spent hours and days watching her first improve, and then take a few steps back.  At times, they weren’t sure if she’d survive – other times they hugged at triumphant news.

Steve remembers having to take his two boys in to see their mother.

Tracy Jolly begins her recovery after being removed from a ventilator.

“I wasn't sure how to handle the part about the boys actually seeing Tracy. At one count there were no less than 29 bags hanging on the IV racks,” Steve said. “It is an overwhelming sight for even the most hardened medical professional, yet alone 13- and 15-year-old boys.”

Steve said the boys were reassured to see their mom. “If there is anything more difficult that I will ever have to do in this life, I can't imagine what it might be,” he said.

As the weeks passed, Tracy fought a myriad of battles. Toxic Shock complications include kidney, heart and liver failure and may be deadly in up to 50% of cases. If the disease progresses past the initial stage, the victim is likely to experience peeling skin on the hands and feet, gangrene and loss of fingers and toes.

Tracy Jolly returns home after months in the hospital recovering from Toxic Shock. She lost portions of her feet and was emaciated but able to walk with the aid of a walker.

Steve recalls a conversation with his boys on May 2 – just two weeks after Tracy was admitted.
“I filled them in about the fact that mom would probably lose the tips of her fingers. She would surely lose some toes maybe even a foot,” Steve said. “The important thing is that she lives. Just two weeks ago, there was extreme skepticism from the medical staff that she would make it through the night, let alone be with us today.”

And two years later, after spending two months at Clovis Community, nearly three months in rehabilitation at Community Regional Medical Center’s Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center, Tracy is thriving at home with her family. She’s also spent months as an outpatient at the Leon S. Peters Burn Center for her many painful surgeries and skin grafts on her feet and hands. But nothing has daunted her spirit or kept her from forging ahead.

One of her proudest moments this last winter was when she accomplished a goal she had set for herself.  “I went skiing you know,” Tracy laughed. “Then I fell and hurt my knee. My bones were weak from being in a chair for two years.”

Tracy Jolly, center, skies with her sons this winter to celebrate her recovery. She nearly died and spent months in intensive care at Clovis Community Medical Center and  Community Regional Medical Center’s inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient burn centers. She lost parts of her fingers and feet and has had numerous skin grafts, but she’s grateful and happy to be back to her vibrant life.

She said none of the medical staff could believe it. “I was emaciated. When I went to rehab, I couldn’t even lift my head and my muscles were so weak from the disease I couldn’t turn over,” she said.

Tracy still has a way to go and might have another skin graft on her left foot and possibly surgery on her hands to limber them up. But she’s very thankful she survived this horrible ordeal. Her friends and family also were grateful for the excellent care she received and recognized her triumph by contributing to Clovis Community’s $300 million expansion, which will triple the size of the hospital and make it all private rooms.

Tracy said her care at both Clovis Community and Community Regional was “awesome.”

“I have a strong faith and I do have a joy for life, for sure,” Tracy said. “I have a full life right now and I’m happy … as happy as I was before I got sick.”

Mary Lisa Russell reported this story. She can be reached at mrussell@communitymedical.org.