Just then, a nurse opened the door and walked in. I’d gotten pretty used to them coming and going, so it didn’t even startle me anymore. She was pushing a cart filled with bandages and rubbing alcohol though, and that made me a little nervous.
“Hey, Nina, time to change your bandages,” she said.
“Um, okay…” I think she saw the fear in my face.
“It won’t hurt too much,” she said. “It’s just a little routine procedure.”
I nodded, and pulled the covers up over my bandaged knee. There was some blood soaking up through the white wrapping, but it didn’t seem like too much.
“Is that normal?” I asked.
The nurse paused for a second. “Hmmmm … Let me take a look.”
She took a small pair of scissors and cut through the layers of bandaging. There was a horrible smell.
“Yuck,” I said, “Is that coming from me?” I didn’t want to smell bad, hell no!
The nurse pulled back the last bandage, which was sticky and dark red. It stung when she lifted it.
Underneath, the skin and stitches around my knee-stump were the worst thing I’d seen since the morning it all happened. My skin looked like raw, rotten meat. There were holes in the surface that looked like small worms had eaten through them. Dark purplish blood was oozing up from deep underneath.
I bit my lip and tried not to scream.
“What’s happening?” I gasped.
She muttered something that sounded like “Necra-tizing fashy-itis,” more to herself than to me.
“Necrosis,” she said more clearly, but that didn’t help.
“Is it serious?” I asked, even though I already knew it was.
She pressed a button on some device that looked like an old cellphone. “I’m paging the doctor,” she said. “We’ve gotta get you into surgery.”
“What’s going on?” I cried. “How come I didn’t even notice my skin was doing this?!”
“You’ve been on some heavy pain meds, so you wouldn’t have felt it,” said the nurse. “Good thing we caught it when we did.”
My heart was pounding by now. “Am I gonna be okay?!”
The door opened again, and a doctor hurried in. He looked at the wound and sighed.
“We’ll have to debride this one too,” he told the nurse. “I’ll book an O.R.”
“This one too?!” I repeated. “Did it happen to Ashleigh?”
“Nina, don’t worry about that,” the nurse said, trying to calm me down.
Too late. I was already worried.
Before I knew it, they were pushing me down the hallway on a stretcher so fast it made me dizzy. We got into a super-sized elevator and the door was right about to shut, when there was a shout from down the hallway.
“Wait, can you fit one more?” It sounded like one of the nurses.
Someone paused the elevator, and the other people rolled in another stretcher and brought it up right next to mine.
It was Jenna. I took a wild guess and assumed we both had the same problem. We looked over at each other, too terrified and overwhelmed to speak. The elevator door rolled shut.
I couldn’t tell if it was moving up or down. It stopped on another floor, the floor where they did the surgeries, I assume, and they pushed us down the hallway like it was a race. I looked at Jenna one more time before they took us to separate O.R.s.
They must have put an anesthesia mask on me, but I couldn’t even remember when they put me under. I woke up in a different hospital room, and I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. There were no windows, and it had curtains instead of walls.
The room also had more machinery than the last one, including a heart monitor. There was no furniture, not even chairs for visitors to sit down. A nurse was standing near my bed, taking notes and adjusting whatever machines were hooked up to me.
“What room is this?” I asked her.
“You’re in the ICU,” she said, “but it’s just temporary, so we can keep an eye on you.”
“Did the surgery go okay?” I mean, it couldn’t have gone that bad, since I was still alive.
“You did great, Nina,” she said. “How bout I get you some water?”
The nurse disappeared behind the curtain. She came back a few minutes later, with two very familiar voices whispering behind her.
“Nina, your parents are here,” she said, handing me a plastic cup of water. I started sipping on it.
My mom and dad walked through the open curtain.
“Hey, baby,” my mom whispered. She was in tears, again. Even my dad was fighting to keep the tears back.
“Hey,” I said weakly.
We only talked for a few minutes, since I really wasn’t feeling up to it. Before they left, I asked my mom one more thing.
“Mom, how’s Jenna doing? Did you talk to her mom?”
My mom’s mouth twisted and more tears fell from her eyes. I already knew what the answer was.
“Sweetie,” she said, “Jenna didn’t make it.”
Of course she didn’t.
My face went numb, and I couldn’t make a sound. The tears just came pouring out.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” my mom said in between sobs.
“Can you please leave?” I asked them, but not because I was upset with them or anything. I just wanted to be alone.
My mom nodded. We exchanged some quick goodbyes and I love you’s, and then my parents were gone.
I can only assume I slept the rest of the day away, only because I had no idea what time it was. When I woke up, I immediately regretted it.
There was a pain in my head worse than any headache I’ve ever had. Even worse, it felt like someone had turned the heat up to 100 degrees. I was soaking in sweat, and I threw the covers off.
The hospital gown was knee-length, so I could see the lower half of my good leg. It was covered in red sores.
My heartbeat sped up, and the heart monitor went crazy. I started hyperventilating, and I couldn’t call for help. I pressed the emergency button next to my bed and a whole team of nurses rushed in within seconds. At some point I blacked out.
When I woke up, I was feeling only slightly better. One of the nurses brought me some water. I asked her for something to write on, and she brought me this notebook and a pen.
Since then, the sores on my left leg have gotten worse. They put me through another surgery to cut off the diseased skin, and it’s all bandaged up now. I’m not sure what’s left of it.
The sores have spread to my hands now. I’ve been writing this for days, but it hurts to hold the pen. I won’t be able to write much more. This might literally be the last thing I ever do.
Brittany, if you’re reading this … I asked them how you were doing, but they won’t tell me shit. But I just know you’re alive, and I know you’re going to survive this. If anyone is strong enough to make it through this insanity, it’s you.
By now, I already realize I’ll never know the truth about what happened to us. But knowing you, I have no doubt you’ll go looking for the answers on your own. Just please, be careful.
Anyway, whatever happens, you’re still the most badass chick I know, and you’ll go on to live a great life after this. I know you will. I just wish I could see you one last time.
So, I guess this is goodbye.