Darv Zalomsky

                     "Story told by daughter Jodi"


Hello, my name is Jodi, and I live in central Minnesota.  The evil meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, to be exact, invaded the life of my family when it struck my dad on Christmas Eve, 2002.  Never in a million years did I think I would ever be affected by this horrible disease--it's one of those things you think of as only happening to "somebody else".  Yeah, we all see the news stories of college kids getting hit with it, but you never think it's going to happen to you.  Well, I turned out to be WAY wrong about that.

     My story is about my dad.  He's 63 years old, and a very strong, healthy, active man.  My family is very close knit--my dad lives in the same house I grew up in, and I and my younger brother still live in our hometown.  We lost my mom a year ago at Thanksgiving, and that has made us that much closer to my dad.  I talk to him everyday, and he comes to supper at my house at least 4 times a week.
     On December 23rd, 2002, I made my daily call to my dad in the morning.  He had had a cold/flu type thing going on for the past week, but had seemed to be getting better.  On this day, however, he told me he had woken up with an ear ache and sinus pressure/pain.  I told him he needed to go to the doctor because he had a sinus infection and it needed antibiotics.  Of course he himmed and hawwed about it--he's supposed to doctor 30 miles from here and didn't want to go.  I told him if he wouldn't go to the doctor to at least come to my house and get the unopened Zithro-Pak that I happened to have.  Before he consented to do this, he asked me, "Worst case scenario, if I don't treat this what could happen?"  I told him, "worst case scenario, the infection could leak into your brain and you could get meningitis".  So he came and got the Z-Pak and took the first two pills.  He called at around 9pm that night and told my husband that he was going to bed so don't call him.  My husband (Gary) and my dad work together, and Gary said he seemed to be ok that day at work.
     The next morning, which was Christmas Eve, I started trying to call my dad at 9am.  I got no answer, and I couldn't figure out where he could be at that time of the morning, and I knew he didn't have to work that day.  I kept trying, and he finally answered at 10am, and was still in bed.  This is a man who is out of bed between 6 and 7 EVERY day.  He sounded HORRIBLE.  I said "Dad, if you feel this bad, you HAVE to get to the doctor."  He said "Noooo, I have a headache like I've never had before.  I've never had a migraine, but I expect this is how one feels.  I'm just going to go back to bed and sleep."  He told me that he had taken the next pill in the Z-Pak and 2 advil at 8 that morning, but it hadn't even made a dent in the headache.   I don't know why, but I IMMEDIATELY had a feeling that he had meningitis, and was worried sick.  I told him I'd let him sleep for 2 more hours and then I was going to call him again.  I called my sister in law, who is my best friend and neighbor, and told her how worried I was.  She said she was going to call Chris at work and tell him to go out to my dad's to check on him at noon when he got off work.  Then I called Gary, who was at work till noon, and told him to leave early and go out there because I was so worried about him.  Gary left work and got to my dad's at around 11:45 and called to tell me he had to break into the house because my dad wouldn't answer the door, and that he couldn't wake him up.  I told him to CALL 911 NOW.  In the meantime my brother got there.  We met them at our local hospital.  My dad had a 104 temp, was dehydrated, and unresponsive.  I pushed and pushed the ER doc to do a lumbar puncture to test for meningitis, because I just knew he had it.  After the doctor himmed and hawwed for awhile, he agreed to do one, and the fluid that came out was very cloudy.  That meant only one thing--meningitis--just what I expected.  They started him on Vancomycin and Ceftin and  within 30 minutes we were packed up and shipped out to a trauma center in Minneapolis, as our local hospital was unequipped to deal with something as dangerous and potentially contagious as meningitis, because at this point we didn't know yet what strain it was.
     We initially were put into an isolation room in the ER.  My brother and sister in law and my husband wanted me to stay in the room with my dad and be the first one to see the ER doc because I have medical knowledge and would understand what the doc would say.  I went to the door of his room, and on it was pasted a big sign saying "WARNING, BIOHAZARD.  WEAR FULL PROTECTIVE ATTIRE BEFORE ENTERING THIS ROOM"  I was very scared, because I knew how contagious the  meningococcal strain is.  I put on the gown, gloves, hat, and mask, and went in to my dad.  At this point they had brought the fever down with suppositories, and if I yelled "DAD" at him he would open his eyes for a second.  The ER doc came in, and the first words out of his mouth were "Your father is a very, very sick man with a very, very serious disease, and he could die from this."  Pretty hard not to understand a statement like that, but I already knew how serious the situation was.
     We were transferred to an isolation room in the neurological ICU at about 1am.  We were all torn between staying with him that first night and going home to our children, who were all wondering if Santa was going to come.  The ICU doc and nurse told us to go home to our children--there was nothing to do now but wait and see if the medicines were going to work their magic, and they assured us they would call if there was any change at all.  He was being given Vancomycin, Rocephin, Ceftin, and Amoxicillin by IV now.  His fever was down to 100.  We went home and let our kids open presents at 2am, and we all said a prayer for Grandpa.
     The next morning my brother and I went to the hospital and Gary and my sis in law stayed with the kids.  We were told that early in the morning my dad had gotten up, tore out his IV, tore off all his leads, RIPPED out his fully-inflated Foley catheter, and walked out to the nurse's station.  This sent everyone into a tizzy because he was still in isolation because we still didn't know what strain he had.  It took SIX men to fight my dad back into bed, and they ended up having to restrain him because he pulled out the IV again right after they got done inserting a new one.  All that day he was combative yet unresponsive other than opening his eyes if we yelled at him.  He kept moaning and holding his head.  He did seem comforted by Chris and I holding his hands on each side of him, and at one point he opened his eyes as I talked to him and just gazed into my eyes.  It was almost as though he was looking right through me, though, like "the porch lights are on but no one is home".  The infectious disease specialist came in at about 6 that night and told us they had pinpointed the strain--he had pneumococcal meningitis.  He walked up to my dad's bed and grabbed his head and lifted, and my dad's whole upper body came up off the bed--that's how stiff his neck was.  At that point we got to stop wearing protective garb when we went into his room.  Thursday there was still no change.  All the doctors kept telling us the same thing, that it was going to take time for him to wake up, but the fact that we caught his illness so soon and that he had made it through the first 24 hours made the chance of a good outcome MUCH higher.
     The next day, Friday, Dec 27, a nurse from the ICU called at 7am--Dad was awake and asking about his dogs.  I didn't realize that "awake" meant far from normal.  He couldn't remember where he was or why he was there, he couldn't hear, his vision was blurry, and he was very mixed up.  He was hallucinating weird things, and he called me by the wrong name numerous times.  So now my worry changed from "will he live?" to "is he ever going to be the Dad I knew again?"  The doctors said there was little hope that his hearing would recover, that deafness is a very common side effect of the disease.  He also said that only time would tell if he had permanent brain damage, or if his altered state was because his brain was still so angry.  At any rate, he was transferred to a room on the neurological floor that night.  Incidentally, despite us warning the nurses on that floor that he had gotten up in ICU and tore out his IV's and catheter, they didn't watch him and he got up and did the same thing the next morning.  They ended up finding him in the staff bathroom sitting on a mop bucket.  Needless to say, I raised holy hell when I got there that morning and from there on out he had a round-the-clock babysitter.
     From there on out it was just waiting and watching.  He asked me "what is it that I have again???" about a gazillion times.  He was in the hospital for 7 more days, and his mental state came around a little more each day until he was very close to normal.  His hearing even seemed a little better by the time he got to go home. 
     At home he slowly regained his strength and combated debilitating headaches.  Then one day the headaches stopped, and he felt a little stronger each day.  Dad went back to work 3 weeks after getting out of the hospital, but boy was he wiped out by the end of his 4 hour shift.  Today his hearing is back to what it was before the illness, and he is back to doing everything he did before.  He only gets the occasional headache, and Advil takes care of it. 
     I can't even begin to tell you all how thankful I am to still have my dad and still have him be the same ol' dad, especially after reading about the devastation some of you have been through.  I thank God each and every day for giving me the gumption to follow my instincts, and for letting us keep him.  I tell anyone who will listen about what we went through and to WATCH OUT for symptoms of meningitis.  After having gone through it, I can see why so many people are not diagnosed correctly until it's too late--I am 100% positive that the doc in our local ER would NOT have done the lumbar puncture as soon as he did if I wouldn't have pushed so hard for it.  There IS hope of surviving meningitis AND having a good outcome, but fast treatment is the key, as is listening to your gut instinct.  If you have to offend a doctor or two so be it--it's worth it if it means your loved one survives.   God bless you all, and your Angels too.

Foot  Prints in The Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking

Along the beach with the Lord.

 Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

 Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.

Other times there were one set of footprints.

 This bothered me because I noticed that

During the low periods of my life when I was

 Suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,

I could see only one set of footprints,

 So I said to the Lord, "You promised me,

Lord, that if I followed You,

 You would walk with me always.

 But I noticed that during the most trying periods

Of my life there have only been

One set of prints in the sand.

 Why, When I have needed You most,

 You have not been there for me?"

 The Lord replied,

"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints

 Is when I carried you."

 By Mary Stevenson

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