Almost keeping a secret risked my life


Graphic by Kelsie Anderson

Signal reporter Kelsie Anderson reflects on a potentially life-threatening decision to NOT tell her parents about a scab on the back of her neck.

Kelsie Anderson, Reporter

When I was eight years old and in the 3rd grade I had gotten a bug bite on the back of my neck. Being a kid and not knowing any better, I scratched it a lot which caused the bite to form into a giant scab.

I was too scared to tell anyone because I knew scratching it was bad. However, one day I was down at my aunt’s house and I told her about the scab. She asked me if she could see what it looked like. I remember her saying that it looked really bad and she was really worried about it. I didn’t think that she would tell anyone, but I was wrong.

Later that day, I went home and my mom asked me to go to the bathroom so she could look at my neck to see how bad the scab was. When we went to the bathroom she lifted up my hair and gasped because of how bad it looked. She quickly poured peroxide on my neck and was surprised at how much the scab bubbled up.

As time went on I continued to mess with the scab to where it eventually fell off. I thought that if I was able to remove the scab that it meant everything would get better; but then I started getting really sick.

I ended up going to the emergency room almost every day, but we were always told that it was just a virus; my mom knew that they were wrong but there was nothing that she could do.

I began to get worse and worse as time went on. My mom said that my body was starting to be unable to fight whatever was wrong with me because parts of my hair started turning grey.

My mom was often using Facebook as a way to let everyone in our family know how I was doing and in one of the posts, she talked about how I was starting to become more upset as time went on. “One of the hardest parts of this whole ordeal is watching her become so sad and depressed. We can hardly get any words out of her, she just shrugs her shoulders or shakes her head.”

Further, into the post, she talked about how we had struggled for a long time trying to find the right medicine for me. “I am praying that her new medicine works this time, this is the fourth antibiotic we’ve tried because she’s been allergic to her other ones.”

Once I had gotten super sick and I reached a fever of 107 degrees, and I freaked out because that was very high, but everyone was trying to remain calm even though they were really scared for me.

I was taken to Children’s Hospital for a few weeks and I was given a PICC line, which I remember was very painful to get put in my arm and I had to be held down by my mom and a few nurses.

I had to be given medicine in a machine that was portable. I would take it to places and then I would use a machine at home. My mom said that this was a very scary time for her since she had to give me shots through my PICC line in the middle of the night.

I remember wearing the PICC line to school in the 3rd grade. I wasn’t able to play with all the other kids during recess because I had to be careful about my arm so I would usually play on the swings using one arm or I would play in the rocks. I eventually got it taken out towards the end of 3rd grade.

The day that everything turned for the worst was when it was on Christmas morning, 2012, my sister and I were opening presents and I remember my mom saying that I looked severely pale and not myself. She said that I didn’t want to open anything and that I kept asking if I could go back to sleep but she wouldn’t let me.

Later that day I was taken to the emergency room where one doctor finally noticed something wasn’t right. She said that I needed to be transferred to Children’s Hospital right away. I was quickly taken by ambulance there and I remember almost my whole family standing outside the emergency room as I was being put into the ambulance.

I remember laying in the bed in the emergency room feeling absolutely horrible. It was the worst I have ever felt. However, I never knew why it felt that way until a couple of years ago when my mom thought it was time to tell me what happened.

The doctors at the Children’s Hospital told her that if I had gone back to bed that day on Christmas that I would most likely died in my sleep. It was kinda hard to process at first, but it explained why I felt so bad that day.

When I was staying at Children’s it took them about a week to figure out what was actually wrong with me. I slept almost the entire time.

I have a memory of waking up to pizza being there and asking who had brought the pizza. My mom told me that family had come to visit but I was asleep the entire time, which made me sad since I didn’t get to see them.

When we finally got a diagnosis we found out that I had a Staph infection in my heart located in the left valve.

We were then told that my left heart valve was leaking which was causing me to have a heart murmur. I remember using a stethoscope to listen to my heartbeat then I would listen to a family member’s heartbeat and I thought that it was cool that mine sounded different but I was just a kid and didn’t know that it was something bad.

Even though it was a relief that we knew what was finally wrong with me, nothing was really set in place yet for solving the problem so I was sent back home for the time being.

As time went on I was still fighting the Staph infection, and I was now in the 4th grade. One day my sister, Kourtney, and I were running around our house playing when my mom and dad sat us down in the living room and I thought it was weird as my dad was holding a piece of paper and I could tell that something was wrong.

My mom and dad then explained to me that I was scheduled for heart surgery on February 28th. I was shocked and scared and didn’t really say anything at first but my sister was really worried and got scared for me. Although this was a big surgery for me being such a young kid, this wasn’t the first heart surgery that I have had.

The first heart surgery that I had was when I was born because I had a hole in my heart. The reason that I had a hole in my heart was due to the fact that I was born very prematurely. I was born on September 9th when my actual due date was supposed to be December 21st. When I was born I weighed a total of 1 lb 12 1/2 oz and my mom said that my ears weren’t even fully formed.

I was in the NICU for two months and 10 days and I finally was able to go home on Nov. 19th. My mom always tells me how it was very hard on her as a new mother because she had to leave me at the hospital and go home every night although she would make the drive over to the hospital every day to read books to me.

On the day of my heart surgery, I remember that I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything which I hated. I remember being put in a room and being given this type of purple medicine in a tiny cup and after I drank it I remember feeling weird.

As my mom was talking to me she told me that she loved me, but I don’t really remember anything after that. Although my family told me that I most likely was out of it, they said that when the nurses came to wheel me in for surgery I threw my arms in the air and shouted, “Let’s get this party started!” and it made everyone laugh.

I remember that when I woke up from my surgery I was in a lot of pain but I was surprised that all of my family was there. I also remember complaining that I was very thirsty yet I wasn’t allowed to drink any water but this nurse fed me ice which helped.

A few days after my heart surgery, I remember that I was put into a different room. The nurses wanted to help me into my bed but I stood up on my own and got into the bed which shocked the nurses and even my mom.  My mom said that she knew I would make a very good recovery.

I was in recovery for four weeks where I spent two in the hospital and the other two at home. As I was in the hospital healing from surgery my fourth-grade teacher had the entire fourth-grade class write me “Get Well” cards. I still have them at home and whenever I look at them it makes me feel so happy knowing that so many people care about me.

Every year since my surgery on February 28th, my family and I go out to eat at whatever restaurant I want to celebrate me surviving a very difficult surgery.

I remember when it was finally one year after my heart surgery. That day I was at school sitting in my chair when my teacher got a phone call. She said that there was something in the office for me. I was super confused but I wanted to see what I was getting so I ran down to the office and that was when I saw a giant vase with flowers wrapped in a big pink bag.

I was really surprised but very happy and I took it back to class feeling really nervous about how everyone would react. But when I walked into my classroom, my teacher said, “Wow, look at the flowers Kelsie got!” My teacher then asked if I would share with the class why I was receiving the flowers so I told them how I had heart surgery the year before. My teacher told me that I was a very strong person and a survivor which was really nice to hear.

Ever since my heart surgery, I have had to go back to Children’s for heart echoes in order to make sure that my heart is working normally and nothing else is wrong. The doctors warned me and my mom that if I were to get any sort of cut, I have a major chance of getting another Staph infection that I could die from. It is very scary so whenever I get a serious cut. We watch it very closely to make sure nothing bad happens.

At my last heart echo, I was told that my heart looked perfect and it was pretty much normal, which I was very happy about! Since my heart is in very good shape I won’t have to go back for another two years. Although my heart is in good shape I will have to have heart echoes for the rest of my life.

I wanted to share this story to let others know that you never know what might happen in life. For me, one small bug bite led to me having to fight for my life. I hope that no one else has to go through what I did.

I’m very thankful for Children’s Hospital because without them I most likely would not be here today getting the opportunity to graduate high school and go on to a four-year college to earn my degree in Journalism.