Woman battles flesh- eating bacteria [UPDATED]Published 11:11am Monday, March 5, 2012 Updated 11:21am Monday, March 5, 2012
Tara Lindquist is a tough woman. The Dalton resident works in construction and has given her all on the Dalton Fire and Rescue Department (as a firefighter and EMS worker) for 13 years.
In 2010, however, she learned that she would be facing her toughest battle yet, and some Dalton community members are teaming up to give her some help.
It started in August of 2009, when Lindquist was bitten by a tick. She didn’t think much of it, brushing the tick off and moving on with her day.
“I noticed a few days later it looked like it was getting infected,” she said.
A customary treatment with Neosporin seemed to do the trick, but the infection came back – “with a vengeance,” Lindquist noted – in February 2010. Visits to health care professionals in Fergus Falls and Fargo were inconclusive, but some biopsy results sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for analysis were unusual enough for doctors there to call Lindquist down for a visit.
In July 2010, she received her diagnosis: pseudomonas, a flesh-eating bacteria that’s taken up residence in her lower extremities. The bacteria is a common one that usually does not adversely affect humans, said Lindquist, but genetics proved not to be in her favor.
“Because I have a weakened immune system, it decided to get in through an open wound and have my legs as a three-course meal,” she said.
Lindquist’s case appears to be incurable, but it may be manageable or removable. However, Mayo doctors have been trying antibiotic treatments to little avail.
As a result, Lindquist has been forced to undergo several different surgeries, including some in which physicians have scooped out what she called a “crater” in her leg, hoping to remove the flesh where the bacteria is located. While there is often a reprieve, the bacteria has always returned.
“I’ve had 15 surgeries since 2010, and then I’ve had four major surgeries since September,” Lindquist said.
Each surgery requires a long trip down to Rochester, followed by a long hospital stay and a period of what virtually amounts to bed rest. Doctors want Lindquist to use her legs as little as possible after the surgeries to prevent complications, meaning that even the most simple chores are off-limits and construction work is unthinkable. For a woman used to a much greater regimen of physical activity, the change has hurt almost as much as the extreme physical pain the bacteria has given her.
“I’m not used to not being able to provide for my family,” she said. “I can’t even do basic household tasks, and it’s driving me nuts.”
To help ease the load, Lindquist’s daughter Kaicie has stepped in. The two live together, so Kaicie, 21, does much of the work that Lindquist cannot do, but the situation wears on the Kaicie in different ways.
Kaicie works at the Red Horse Ranch Arena while attending M State – Fergus Falls to get a two-year degree in equine science.
“I’m pulling 40 hour weeks at work and still trying to go to school full time,” she said.
That schedule, combined with helping Lindquist, doesn’t leave much time for anything else, and Kaicie’s paycheck can’t cover all of her mom’s expenses.
“My main concern is that I don’t want to lose my house,” Lindquist said.
Though the family has received a lot of moral support – neighbors frequently come by to mow the Lindquists’ lawn or shovel their driveway – finances are still tight. To that end, a benefit spaghetti feed to help with Lindquist’s expenses is being organized on Saturday, March 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Dalton Community Center. It’s the brainchild of some old colleagues who still care about Lindquist very much.
“It was kind of a collaboration between myself and a couple of guys in my mom’s (fire) department in Dalton,” Kaicie explained.
Donations to the benefit are free will. There will also be a silent auction and a bake sale at the event.
Though the pseudomonas remains in Lindquist’s legs, she and Kaicie are still hopeful for a recovery.
“We’re hoping that eventually they’ll try to figure out how to do it so it doesn’t keep coming back,” she said. “I just want to get my life back.”