Saturday, March 17, 2007

Introduction to Blog

It's been 4 and 1/2 years since my husband, Wally, died and I finally feel ready to talk about his story with the world.

In 2002, Wally was a healthy, athletic, and very funny 40-year-old. He had lost his spleen about 15 years earlier in a car accident. We never knew how important the spleen was. His doctors told him to beware of pneumonia, chest colds and the like. But Wally was rarely sick. He was a marathon runner, an avid fisherman and golfer, and an airline pilot. One Friday night in October of 2002, Wally was bitten by our pet dog, Leo, a feisty Jack Russell Terrier. It was a small puncture wound on his right hand. Wally cleaned the wound thoroughly and then went on with his weekend of a night out on the town (Friday night), a long run (Saturday) and family parties (Saturday and Sunday). Wally ate and drank and acted normally all weekend. By Sunday night, he said he was feeling "flu-ish", although that didn't stop him from eating a big burrito shortly before bedtime. Wally woke with the shaking chills late that night and we both thought he was coming down with the flu. On Monday morning, his chills were gone but he was feeling more flu symptoms so he called in sick for work. By that night at 10pm, he was dead.

We did not find out what caused Wally's death until the autopsy. The medical examiner found a bacteria called "capnocytophaga" in his blood. This is an organism found in normal dog and cat saliva and it is fought by the spleen. Of course, since Wally did not have a spleen, there was nothing to fight it and the bite wound did not even show signs of infection. The bacteria caused septicemia (basically, a severe blood infection) and septic shock, which brought about Wally's death.

If we had known that the possibility for this infection existed, we never would have owned a pet and we certainly would have received emergency medical treatment for any animal bite or scratch and would have immediately visited the doctor for symptoms of flu.

My reason for setting up this blog is simply to inform others who are lacking spleens (and there are many!) of this danger. Talk to your doctors. Educate yourselves. And take immediate action if you feel ill -- even seemingly minor injuries may be life-threatening to those without a spleen. Don't take a dog or cat bite or scratch lightly.