Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Verdict

  The afternoon was sunny and breezy.  A perfect spring day in Texas. The air smelled fresh, the breeze was just cool enough to stop you from complaining about the Texas sun in your face, but you could still feel its warmth on your cheeks and forehead. I was taking my slow stroll to the mailbox with my tiny golden mailbox key in hand, when my phone rang. It was that all too familiar number. The medical examiner's office. They're calling me. It must mean they finally have made a ruling on Jason's cause of death. My fingers froze just long enough to miss the call. DAMMIT! I immediately checked the voicemail just to make sure of whom I needed to be calling back. The second the doctor said her extension number, I ended the voicemail and I couldn't call her back fast enough. She sounded very pleasant and was promptly ready to discuss what she had found. So I held my breath and told her to "go for it."

Jason's cause of death is "Streptococcus Pneumoniae Sepsis". 
You are free to google that, but I can tell you what I know and save you the trip. First, it's not pneumonia. The name is a little misleading to those of us who aren't medically educated. Basically, the bacteria organism called Streptococcus Pneumoniae found its way into Jason's blood. And he couldn't fight it off. He went into sepsis and his organs shut down. This is rare.
Was there any way to save him? I don't know. Possibly with antibiotics if immediately administered. 
Why or how did he get this and why haven't I heard of this happening before? 
That one I can answer for you. 
Jason was an "at risk population" for this infection of his blood and I didn't even know it. Here is the backstory. The story of Jason's other love. 


See, Jason had a love affair with motorcycles. The man owned at least 20 of them, likely more. Some he crashed, some he sold or traded for the new model he had to have. He used to drive all the way from Fort Worth/Dallas to Houston weekly, in order to participate in racing on a track in a race series. He loved to ride. 

He rode them fast and hard. He was careful in that he wore full protective gear ALWAYS. If you ever get a chance, don't get him started on bikers in shorts and sandals, or those without helmets, as a helmet saved his life many times. He was not, on the other hand, always careful in the speeds he enjoyed or his exhibitionism. 

However, it wasn't high speed or motorcycle tricks that night in June 2000 that almost killed Jason. It was an inattentive driver. She pulled out right into Jason, crashing into the left side of his body. Jason was flown by helicopter to a trauma hospital in Dallas where they said he would not live. He was on life support for weeks, lost his spleen, his left kidney and required metal rods and pins in his left arm, left leg and left ankle. The doctors told his parents he wouldn't make it, but he did. He shocked them. He walked out of that hospital... and immediately bought a new bike. 

Jason continued to go on road trips with his friends and enjoy his pursuit of adrenaline. 

They called him "Panda Man". And as usual, he was just a big kid. Even after all he had been through. 

Jason had cheated death at least once, but he wasn't stopping there. In 2006, Jason wrecked again, this time at a high speed. It should have been another horrible accident, but he miraculously slid to safety, without encountering a tree or oncoming vehicle, and walked away unharmed! Here he is after the accident, with his bike. He told me his brother was watching over him. 

So, what's the score at this point? Jason 2, Death 0? Roughly. 

After I got my hands on Jason, I tried my best to stop the madness. We had children and I couldn't risk them losing their daddy to motorcycle crashes anymore. He stopped riding years ago and took up mountain biking and other less dangerous hobbies. For almost 14 years, Jason had no lasting effects of his accident other than occasional pains in his joints and setting off metal detectors at airports. Well, at least that's what we thought. 
  Let's talk about that accident again. Like I said, he lost some organs. One of which was his spleen. Prior to 2 months ago, I couldn't even tell you what a spleen does! Who knew it was so important? Apparently it is. It helps your body fight infections. Infections like Streptococcus Pneumoniae. Without his spleen, Jason couldn't fight this off. At least not this time. He had cheated Death so many times before (that score of 2 to 0 was my being pretty conservative on Jason's end), but not this time. Unfortunately, Death only has to score once. 

I'm not sure what Jason would have to say about all this if he could weigh in on it. I can think of some four-letter words he would likely choose. As for me, I recommend you hold your loved ones close to your heart, take care of the one body you get in this life, pray to whichever maker made you, and hold on tight, y'all. It can be a rough ride.

Rest in peace, Panda Man. 


  1. My friend had sepsis when she was in England visiting her mother. She somehow made it back from the brink of death-her's is a very long story to recovery. She is now on the sepsis Facebook committee for England. She has found that not a lot of doctors or people in general know a lot about sepsis. More people need to be educated and that should be one of the first things they test for in an emergency. When I first read about Jason's symptoms I wondered to myself if it might have been sepsis. Now we know. I am so incredibly sorry for you loss and I hope this might bring some sort of closure for you. I cannot imagine what you are going through. I pray for you and your girls everyday.
    Stay strong!!

  2. I'm so thankful you now have an answer, but so sorry for your loss. May God comfort you and your beautiful girls.

  3. I'm sorry, Claire. When I read your other post, I knew it was all too familiar. My husband died two years ago from sepsis brought on by beta hemolytic strep group A. He was only 31. I'm so sorry.

  4. My brother-in-law injured his spleen - we don't know when or how - he was an appliance repairman & owned his own business. For months & months no one could figure out why he was so sick. By the time they got him from Missouri to the Mayo Clunic in Minnesota, it was too late. There wasn't enough antibiotics to help by then. He was in his early 60s and has been gone over 6 years. I don't know if it eas the same type of sepsis. He's missed terribly.