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When she was diagnosed with sepsis, an IU Health nurse faced the unimaginable. In order to save her life, doctors performed a quadruple amputation. Now the wife and mother of two is learning to navigate life one day at a time.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
A photo of Alixandra “Alix” Gerringer standing on the beach with her husband, Joseph and two daughters may look like any other vacation picture. There are so many stories behind that photo taken in September 2021.
Every day is a new day for Gerringer - a new day to look back at how far she has come and how far she has to go. It’s nothing short of a miracle that this IU Health Arnett nurse is alive.
In Feb. 2020, Gerringer ended up in ER with what she thought was a winter cold and cough. She was immediately moved to a trauma room and was diagnosed with sepsis. The next month, as a patient at another hospital, she underwent surgery for a quadruple amputation. It was one of numerous surgeries she’s had since that first hospital visit. She has spent time in a rehabilitation facility, additional hospital stays, and has battled numerous setbacks as she fights to regain her independence. Her last surgery was in September 2020.
She has learned to rely on the help of others - especially close friends, coworkers, and her husband. They recently celebrated 10 years of marriage. Part of regaining her independence is learning to work with prosthetics. Her right arm prosthesis socket is fitting too tightly so she will need a new one made. Until then, she’s relying on her left arm prothesis.
“I’m getting very comfortable with the ‘open and close’ functions and I’m practicing with the function that allows the hand to spin,” she said. “I originally got the myoelectric hand prosthesis, but recently got electric terminal devices (ETDs) and I find I can do so much more ,” she said. Picking up tiny objects such as her daughter’s LEGOS or carrying heavier objects without the concern of slipping, are milestones.
And the photo of her standing on the beach - she’s now able to wear her prosthetic legs.
“I've gotten blisters on the end of my stumps and my upper thigh, but it hasn’t stopped me,” said Gerringer, adding that she recently walked a half mile around Lafayette’s Armstrong Park. “I was so excited when I realized how much I had walked. It feels so good to be mobile.” With the help of her daughters - who just completed third grade and Kindergarten - Gerringer is maintaining a garden of tomato plants and herbs. She is taking some time this summer to continue working with occupational and physical therapy and her mental health.
Through every milestone, she has focused on the horizon. Those who know her well say that Gerringer is positive, upbeat and determined.
Another hurdle the family faces is medical expenses. Her friends and coworkers started a GoFundMe page and will host a fundraiser at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 18 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 19. The event will offer clothing, bicycles, furniture, appliances, crafts, baked goods and décor for sale.
The funds will help the family with medical bills and also with the purchase of a power wheelchair, and a larger vehicle with assistance devices. They are also hoping to hire people who can assist the family with daily tasks such a lawn care, dog walking, laundry and meal prep. For additional information, contact Beth Stansberry at email@example.com.
“I am so blessed to have an amazing group of friends and coworkers who have been extraordinarily helpful since I got sick in 2020,” said Gerringer.