A decade after saving her life, Dr. Ted Toerne & Margie Barry-Sheerin, a nurse, were tearfully reunited with Michelle Bruno last Tuesday, August 23. An October 2006 day were recalled by them, when quick thinking, instinct, & possibly divine intervention gathered them together to save Michelle’s life.
Bruno was sixteen years old at that time and was suffering from a bizarre flu-like affliction. Her parents rushed to get her help at the emergency room of the Oak Lawn’s Advocate Christ Medical Center.
Bruno’s mother knew this was not just any ordinary flu, and nurse Margie Barry-Sheerin instinctively agreed, thus rushing Bruno to immediate treatment instead of routinely completing the paperwork. Dr. Ted Toerne was similarly alarmed, urging him to decide within seconds in foregoing a spinal tap & going directly to IV fluids and intubation. Toerne admitted that he had a weird feeling that the big cross above the Christ Hospital made him feel like they were getting Divine help.
And they did need that kind of help because it turned out that it was meningococcemia they were facing. It is a bacterial infection of the lining of one’s bloodstream, brain, and spinal cord. It can be quite fatal, with deaths being recorded as quickly as several hours. And even if it is non-fatal, it can cause permanent disabilities.
Dr. Toerne said that even if he had been in practice for 25 years, he feels like he has only saved one life in his entire career, and it was Michelle’s. This was a really different case for him, a very memorable one.
This was the first reunion of the three in a decade. Since that time, a meningococcemia vaccine has been developed, and Bruno also came to be a nurse at Christ. At the reunion, Bruno was dressed in blue scrubs, and thanked Toerne and Barry-Sheerin repeatedly. Toerne recalls how he gets choked up every time he tells Bruno’s story. He told her how glad he was to see her.
For her part, Barry-Sheerin said that the ultimate payback is when she Bruno chose to pursue nursing. She is so proud of Bruno’s career choice.
On the fateful day, Hilda Litto, Bruno’s mom, recalled how at the time, she felt that time was a luxury they didn’t have. She saw purple things on Bruno’s leg, something she has never seen before. On her part, Bruno recalled how extremely sick she felt that day. She was so weak, was vomiting, and was so sensitive to the light. She saw rashes on her body and her neck hurt.
Barry-Sheerin, upon seeing Bruno, immediately saw the unusual leg rashes and immediately alerted Dr. Toerne. Toerne recalled how Bruno was so pale and had blue blotches that looked almost like bruises under her skin. It was a sign that her blood wasn’t coagulating properly.
Staff intubated Bruno & hooked her to a ventilator. They dumped IV fluids into her, with 9 liters pumped into her in a mere 45 minutes just to maintain the minimum blood pressure. Fortunately, Bruno responded well and was fully recovered within weeks.
Toerne said that meningococcemia is very rare. It is the next step beyond meningitis. Bruno’s case was so bad, and Toerne’s treatment of her was the most amazing resuscitations he was ever involved with. And everyone did their part perfectly. Toerne said the resuscitation could not have gone better.
If there is a message to this, Barry-Sheerin believes that it is to trust your instinct. Go with what you feel. Bruno’s mom did this, and both nurse and doctor did this, too. She also felt that they had divine intervention.
Bruno is now living in Chicago at Lincoln Park and said that her case guided her into nursing. She wanted to work with every patient’s need, as her nurses and doctor have done for her.