Faces of ID

My name is Mary Millard and my infectious diseases specialist saved my life! On September 28, 2014, I was rushed to the ER and it was there I learned I had an aortic aneurysm, a collapsed aortic valve and enlarged aorta. It all happened so fast. I’d never been really sick or even had to take medication now suddenly, I was facing death.

Hours after arriving to the ER, I suffered a cardiac arrest. To keep me alive, doctors placed me on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a form of life support using tubes and external machinery to oxygenate my blood.

As I was becoming stable enough to be considered for release after my open-heart surgery, I developed a fever. My doctors discovered I had Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a rare and difficult infection to treat. The infection caused me to go into acute septic shock which confined me to a hospital bed for the next month. During that time, I was in a medically-induced coma and breathing through a tube.

Thankfully, my ID Specialist, Dr. Vance G. Fowler along with all the members of my medical team were able to save my life!

Even after my brush with death, my life has never been the same. Finding out my infection is chronic was devastating and a new normal had to develop. The septic shock debilitated me; I thought the infection would go away after treatment, I would be able to move on completely but that has not been the case. I had to learn to how to walk and use my hands again and I still struggle with normal daily activities. Dr. Fowler guides my care on a regular basis and has my best interest for a long life as we work together on my constant care.

I may have to take medications for the rest of my life. P. aeruginosa is known to be resistant to many standard antibiotics. My current treatment plan is only able to contain my infection, it is not a cure.

Although I still face many health challenges, and my treatment often leaves me feeling fatigued, I have made it my mission to educate others about infectious diseases. I want to encourage more young people to select ID as their career path, so they can help save the next survivor, like me.