Stuck on Survive

Since September 2012 former Police Officer and Musician, Jack Pavlekovich, with the help of his family, has been struggling to survive.

Jack last performed live with his band and his daughter in September 2012, when he received an epidural steroid injection shortly before the performance. Jack had previously had back surgery to repair/manage an injury that he suffered in the line of duty as a Police Officer in South Bend. Although he had several epidural steroid injections which helped manage his back pain, eventually his condition warranted a neurostimulator implant in his spine.

He experienced some relief from this procedure. Eventually, the implant stopped helping. Jack again received epidural steroid injections to manage his pain. Although the first series of injections did not seem to have any adverse effects initially, the last two he received at OSMC in September 2012 were contaminated (at NECC) and he developed life-threatening Fungal Meningitis. 751 other people also received these contaminated products. To exacerbate the initial fungal assault; the neurostimulator implanted in his spine had broken and was actually pumping this fungus into his nervous system as well as his spinal fluid. After intense and expensive treatment including on and off treatments with  voriconazole, an anti-fungal medication , from October 2012 to April 2013; he showed signs of improvement with an all-clear for fungal presence in the spinal fluid.

However, all of his symptoms resumed shortly after he had completed the voriconazole treatments. He was sick off and on for months. Doctors could not figure out what was wrong. His chart stated that the fungus had been cured. Finally, in March 2014 a Beta d Glucan Assay was conducted. Jack and his family were informed that he was the third one to be RE-INFECTED with the fungal meningitis. He was put on a different anti-fungal medication,  Itraconazole to fight it. Jack has spent a great deal of time in the hospital and in  ICU. His spleen had to be removed as  a result of this attack on his body.

Over the weekend, I had the  honor of meeting Jack and his family for inclusion in the Arachnoiditis Survivor Portrait Project.  After coming face-to-face with death, Jack and his wife Tammy strive to resume stability for their two children, Ashlee and Jamie. As a result of this preventable near-fatal illness, Jack and Tammy expressed concerns that the girls, “have had to grow up too fast.”

Witness to their father’s painful and debilitating experiences, each of them is attempting to find a way to cope.Behind her lovely smile, Ashlee seems to have developed a quiet strength which permits her to keep her own counsel about her fears while offering an arm to assist whenever she can.

Sep 20, 2014

Writing and illustrating her own book about their story, Jamie has turned to art as a means to describe this battle to others and allows her bright sense of humor to ease the weight of this reality.

Sep 20, 2014 Sep 20, 2014

Jack and Tammy have replaced “date night” with Doctor’s appointments.

Researching complex medical information pertaining to Jack’s case and faced with very tough decisions about:  his care, the financial realities associated with this combination of insult, illness, and injury, and how she can keep her family strong, Tammy, who is coping with some stressful medical concerns of her own; continues to seek answers .OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sep 20, 2014

For Jack, it is painful to see how this affects his family. He knows his children are always looking for the father they know is in there somewhere. With so many variables churning around his medical outcome, it is difficult to reassure him that he will find new ways to be an active participant parenting his children. Illness and injury of this magnitude elicit a daily , moment-by-moment fight to inhabit an injured body and a wounded soul attempting to walk in the land of the living while we dangle our digits over the precipice of the grave. Grace is scarce. Time is limited. Anger is abundant. Hope is fragile.

Recently, Jack was informed that this fungal infection in his spine has resulted in Spinal Adhesive Arachnoiditis in his neck and the L3 to L5 levels in the lumbar spine.  Faced with the pain and isolation of this double whammy of medical injury, Jack says that his Family, their cat-Hailee, His Music, and His Computer are the things that keep his interest and help him to not give up. Jack has asked that these elements be represented in his Conceptual Portrait. The portrait will be shown in progress on the Art For Arachnoiditis Facebook Page and displayed in the public art Exhibit to increase Arachnoiditis awareness. Jack will receive a free copy of the drawing to keep.

It is expected that Jack and his family will always have to monitor, and sometimes seek treatment, for signs of a recurrence of the fungal infection. Now, Jack and his family will also have to learn to navigate the ins and outs of living with Arachnoiditis. Litigation promises some level of financial assistance however, any compensation award distributed by NECC will have to be divided among the 750+ people affected by the injurious, contaminated products in these spinal injections.

The neurological injuries and extensive medical treatments he has endured as a result of this infection have damaged his vocal cords and make it difficult for Jack to play his guitar or remember the notes and order of the music. A long time musician and performer in the band, Chantilly Lace, Jack misses creating music and sharing it with others.

I believe healing can be found in the arts. Perhaps there are adaptive methodstools,  or equipment that will permit him to play again when he is ready.

~Sheila L. Kalkbrenner

 

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