Andy Marso was a senior at the University of Kansas in 2004 when he contracted bacterial meningitis three weeks before graduation. In less than 24 hours Andy went from feeling perfectly healthy to being near death. He was taken by helicopter to the University of Kansas Hospital, in septic shock, with multiple organs failing. When his parents arrived at the hospital that night they were told there was no guarantee he would survive, and even if he did, he would almost certainly lose parts of all four limbs, because the infection had spread throughout his bloodstream and was cutting off circulation to his extremities.
Andy spent most of the next month in intensive care, in a medically-induced coma, while the medical staff fought to stabilize his organs, end the infection and contain the damage to his limbs. When he woke up his arms and legs had turned black due to loss of blood. He had tissue damage equal to third-degree burns over 30% of his body.
Andy remained in the hospital for more than 100 additional days, most of them in the burn unit. He endured significant debridement (procedure to remove debris or infected/dead tissue from a wound) and skin/tissue grafting to save his arms and legs, but still had to have the front half of both feet and all of his fingers except his right thumb amputated. After he was discharged from the hospital, Andy spent a year in outpatient rehabilitation, undergoing extensive physical and occupational therapy to relearn how to walk, feed himself, shower, dress, use the bathroom on his own, and all other activities of daily living.
Andy has since completed a master’s degree, become an award-winning journalist and authored a book about his experience called Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me, Then Changed My Life for the Better. He is a staunch advocate for meningitis vaccination, and has provided testimony about his experience at three state legislatures and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife, Rachael, and son, Alex.
Note: the below image captures Andy when he was in hospital. Some viewers may find the contents of the image distressing.