Saving Monica - one family's courage to overcome the unthinkable
Monica Jorge's life in August 2007 could not have been better. She was engaged to a wonderful man, Tony, and they were about to celebrate the arrival of their second child. On their way to the hospital neither could have imagined how much their lives were about to change.
The birth of her daughter via C-section went smoothly, yet she developed a low-grade fever a few hours later followed by a persistent sharp pain in the abdomen. At first, she thought it was related to the C-section, but it quickly it became apparent this was much more. Shortly after giving birth, she was in critical condition and airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital.
Doctors Mass General diagnosed Monica and the news was grim. She had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria". Drastic action had to be taken to save her.
Clinging to life, the new mother slipped into septic shock, meaning time was short. Surgeons acted quickly to stabilize her and isolate the infection. Her uterus, ovaries, gall bladder, and most of her colon were removed in those first few hours. Once stabilized, physicians realized the infection had taken another toll - all four of her limbs would have to be amputated. Monica would endure almost 35 separate surgeries.
Medical and surgical recovery had to be followed by months of rehabilitation. Monica had to learn how to function and be a mom again as a quadruple amputee. She chose Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to give her the strength and hope to overcome incredible odds.
Her clinical team developed an extensive plan, and Monica pushed them even harder. If therapy was scheduled for one hour she wanted two. It was September and she faced the possibility of five to six months of rehab. So, she made a simple request: "I want to be home with my family by Christmas."
Monica and her clinical team worked tirelessly. With her occupational therapist and "Ruben" the practice baby doll, Monica would use her new prosthetics to learn all types of mom duties - from changing diapers to buckling a car seat to folding clothes.
The Spaulding team helped her take those first steps. She even borrowed a therapist's sneakers. Everyone worked overtime to help Monica reach her goal.
Just four months from the day she almost lost her life, with the cheers from the entire 5th floor, Monica walked out of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, arriving home in time for Christmas Eve dinner with her family. It was the best Christmas present she could ever give to her daughters - and herself; she was home.
Monica's inspirational story has reached thousands nationwide. It was first featured in a February 2008 Boston Globe Magazine series called "Saving Monica." The piece caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey. In September 2008, Monica and Tony were flown to Chicago, their story featured on an "Oprah" episode called, "Warrior Moms." She has appeared on Oprah several times and in 2011 was featured on the Nate Berkus Show, where they built a customized adaptive home for Monica, Tony and their family.
Imagine the Possibilities
At a time when scientific advancements can help make the impossible possible, an investment in rehabilitation medicine has never been more necessary—or more promising.
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