Story Bank: Diane, Presque Isle

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Diane, 57, Presque Isle

After completing her medical assistant program at a community college in Indiana, Diane moved to Presque Isle to be closer to her sister and aging parents. 

During her move from Indiana to Maine, she injured her foot. “When you sprain or injure your foot like that, it's going to swell so I didn't think anything of it,” said Diane.

Diane soon noticed a small sore on her left foot. She decided to treat it herself. Having had past injuries, and treating them with success, she felt comfortable tending to her own medical needs. Not having health insurance solidified her decision to forego medical treatment.

“About four days later I ended up in the hospital because I couldn't walk and I couldn't stand. I was so weak," said Diane.

Diane was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, an infection of the bones that can spread to surrounding tissue if not treated properly. Diane had her toe amputated. Within two weeks of her initial surgery, her doctors discovered the infection had spread and required further treatment.

“The infection that I had was just sort of creating a bigger problem so they did another test and found that there was so much deterioration and so much poison that, to save my life, they would have to amputate my leg," said Diane. “With everything that the doctors had said,  I could have been dead by Friday because I was so full of poison and my body was fighting as hard as it could. I was to the point where I was closer to death than I realized.”

Diane was prescribed medication to assist her recovery. However, the medicine she was prescribed had adverse effects.

“I was breaking out in a rash all over my body and we couldn't figure it out,” said Diane. “I had an allergic reaction to a medicine. The doctor put me on a different medicine and due to circumstances, I swelled up so bad. I couldn't put on my shoe and I couldn't close my hands to do my exercises.”

Her original recovery time should have been only a few months. It has taken Diane from December 2016 to July 2017 to be well enough to be fitted for a prosthetic leg. “I have been fighting for MaineCare for that whole time,” said Diane.

Throughout her recovery, Diane was working a seasonal job answering emails for a company. “It was a likeable and a really fun job,” said Diane. “Since I didn't have to go outside, it was helpful for all of us because I didn't have to use the cars and have a chance of getting stuck in snow.”

Since her surgery, it has been difficult for Diane to secure employment. “I have not been able to find a job because of some of the stress of what's going on,” said Diane. “So to try to find another job…I can't find one right yet because the doctor will not release me [to work].”

She has applied for Social Security Disability Income, but has been denied. “I'm going to work as soon as I'm released when all these things are solved, but in the meantime, I still have no income,” said Diane.

In May 2017, while awaiting a response from MaineCare, Diane suffered a transient ischemic attack, also known as a mini stroke.

“It [a mini stroke] lets the doctors and you know that there could be another big problem down the road, so you've got to prepare for it,” said Diane. “That is sort of what we are doing now. We are not anticipating a full stroke, but you never know.”

The culmination of her medical challenges began to weigh on her spirit. “When you are having problem after problem, who wouldn't be depressed and down in the dumps most of the time?” asked Diane. “You have the physical problems, you have the mental problems now, and you have emotional problems because you're just frustrated and no one is really listening to you.”

Her spirits began to lift when, in July 2017, Diane was approved for MaineCare. “It [MaineCare] helped to relieve a lot of stress,” said Diane. “There was no way that I could ever pay this back.”

Reflecting on her medical journey, Diane is appreciative of her family, friends, and church community that helped her through these unpredictable circumstances. “The problems that I had were just problems that no one could foresee,” said Diane. “To know that I am still here, how many months later is really a blessing.”