NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - An infection that showed itself literally overnight suddenly left a Nacogdoches woman in a life and death situation. The patient lived, but she had to have both legs and several fingers amputated.
Despite her sudden disability this determined woman now walks again.
"It feels strange, but it's still wonderful to just be able to stand and walk," said Tommie Deaton. "It's not like it used to be, but that's OK."
A positive attitude explains Tommie 's survival. The journey began in July of last year.
"I had been playing dominoes with friends of mine.," Deaton said. "Felt great. Felt great, that night I went to bed."
However, Tommie woke up deathly ill. Her husband Paul called an ambulance. The quiet-spoken woman remembers little of the following days, other than what she's been told.
"The end result was I went septic and my feet had gangrene in both of them," Tommie said.. They looked horrible."
A double leg amputation was performed. Several fingers on both hands were removed, as well.
Tommie is a diabetic. Doctors remain mystified how a suspected underlying kidney infection traveled so quickly. The family was prepared for the worse.
"And they had already told my family that there was a very high possibility I would not make it," Tommie said.
However, the 76-year-old patient survived. Medicine and medical staff played a significant role. So did Tommie's will to live.
"I prayed and I prayed and I prayed," Tommie said. "I did not want to think that this was the end of my life. I have felt like God has been with me every step of the way."
That faithful walk led to walks down the halls of Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital's Cecil Bomar Rehabilitation Center. Tommie calls her prosthetic legs "her legs."
"When I first saw them, I thought, 'Mercy, they're strange looking.'"
A friend provided some brightly colored shoes and socks to keep spirits up, but most all the encouragement came from physical therapists, including Mike Martinec.
"Now let's see how that's lined up," said Mike Martinec, Tommie's physical therapist. "That looks great."
Tommie wasn't a typical patient for this physical therapist of 25 years.
"The unique thing here is that this person was just going about her life and she had this one illness, and I mean just out of nowhere, all of a sudden, she's dealing with this," Martinec said.
But oh, how this tenacious woman coped. Following the surgery, there were six weeks in rehab. Then home with no legs. A year later, Tommie returned to physical therapy to learn how to walk again. Tommie is surprising herself.
"You're not going to believe this because I don't believe it," Tommie said. "I've not shed one tear."
That's just not normal, thought Tommie. So a friend had an idea.
"She said, 'I'm going to bring you a song, and it's going to make you cry because I felt like I needed to cry,'" Tommie said. "And we were listening to this song, and I was just about to cry and somebody came in the room and I thought, 'Well shoot.'"
On this day there was only time for tears of joy.
A staff praised their favorite patient. A husband of 43 years provided the reassurance that everything will be just fine.
"I keep telling her, and I said, 'Well, I've been here for you every day, and I'll be here for you every day.'"
It's survival journey that now continues at home.
Tommie could never find an individual who could share with her what to expect during the recovery. As a testimony to her survival, Deaton wants to provide guidance for amputees so their walk to a new kind of life can be made easier.
Remember if you have a Survivors story, send an e-mail to email@example.com.