Thankful for: His health

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we reached out to Coast Guard members, families and friends to see what they were thankful for this holiday season. All week long, Compass will be sharing these stories of thankfulness from in and around the Coast Guard community. The below post was written by Lt. Jessica Hamilton, who is thankful for the health of her husband following his battle with a deadly disease.

Thankful for: His health

Written by Lt. Jessica Hamilton

This year, for my family, Thanksgiving strikes a deeper chord than ever before. While historical Thanksgiving celebrations focus on the abundance of the harvest, this year we celebrate the abundance of wellness and good health of our loved ones, for we learned the hard way that these things are not a given.

Last fall, my husband Jared took a temporary contracting job on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands doing various construction jobs and solar installations at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. He was supposed to be there for a few months and then return to Honolulu in time for the holidays. Six weeks into his trip, I received a haunting phone call that I will never forget- Jared called to tell me he was being hospitalized in Kwajalein with necrotizing fasciitis from a cut on his left foot.

Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as ‘flesh eating bacteria’ is an extremely aggressive, fast-moving and resistant bacteria that destroys muscle, fat and skin tissue and can only be treated with intravenous antibiotics and debridement (removal of the necrotic tissue) and often forces amputation on it’s victims and in many cases, death. When Jared told me his diagnosis, I was paralyzed. I knew exactly what “nec fasc” was as I had followed a terminal case of it in Honolulu in 2006 when I was stationed aboard Coast Guard Cutter Walnut. The disease is terrifying to say the least, and thank goodness, for Jared’s sake he didn’t know what it was, nor did he have access to the Internet at the hospital in Kwajalein. If he knew at that point what he was up against, I fear he may not have had the positivity to pull him through.

Lt. Jessica Hamilton with her husband Jared at the Coast Guard ball just months before the diagnosis. Photo courtesy of Lt. Hamilton.

Lt. Jessica Hamilton with her husband Jared at the Coast Guard ball just months before the diagnosis. Photo courtesy of Lt. Hamilton.

For me, the next few days were riddled with insomnia, fear, anxiety and prayer. I knew that time was crucial and despite being active duty military, I still had to wait to get clearance to land on Kwajalein Atoll – I was over 2,100 miles away and I had no control. I knew the potential of this disease and that the medical treatment he was receiving in Kwajalein was sub-par at best. I did everything in my power to assist with coordination of his medical evacuation back to Honolulu and finally, in what seemed like an eternity, five days later he was delivered via a private charter medical evacuation to the ICU at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu.

Six weeks, 14 surgeries and skin grafts later, Jared was released home to me, the week before Christmas. The surgeons at Queen’s stopped the infection right before it reached his torso, they preserved his left leg and saved his life. Jared was lucky – his ‘nec fasc’ was somewhat contained as it didn’t show up in random body parts as it does in many. Since his release, he has defied all prognoses and odds and aside from significant scarring and nerve damage, he has made a relatively full recovery. He is back to surfing and back to work and every day amazes me with his lighthearted outlook. I am proud to be the wife of such a strong man.

Jared is lucky, we are lucky – but he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his valiant perseverance, determination and verve, the talented surgeons and the staff at Queen’s, his colleagues who worked so hard to get him out of Kwajalein, our unyielding family constantly at his bedside and our Coast Guard family. For this, we are forever thankful and grateful.

Count your blessings Shipmates, for EVERY DAY is a gift!

The following story is posted with the permission of Novabay Pharmaceuticals. The link to this Novabay Pharmacuetical production is provided at this official Coast Guard web page as a matter of general interest to Coast Guard personnel. The Coast Guard cannot and does not officially endorse Novabay, or the company’s activities, products or treatments.

Lt. Jessica Hamilton alongside her husband Jared and his mother and brother during his recovery. Photo courtesy of Lt. Jessica Hamilton.

Lt. Jessica Hamilton alongside her husband Jared and his mother and brother during his recovery. Photo courtesy of Lt. Jessica Hamilton.

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