Michael Poli

Michael Poli1Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Before I begin my story, I just want to point out that at every turn and twist of fate time was always a factor. Death was always within a few short moments of each occurrence. Had any event gone only slightly different, I would not be writing this.

In 1996, I was doing pretty well. I was in my second year of college. I was in a pre-law program. I was class president. My grades were good. I was in great shape, and was excited about competing in 5K races. I loved this. I had just placed for the first time, and was looking forward to future competitions.

I had a great group of friends, and had just completed the first semester of my sophomore year. I was more than ready for my Christmas break. It was the night after the last day of classes in December. At the time, I was still living in my parent’s house. I was feeling a little bit sick, like I had a cold, but that wasn’t going to keep me from going out and partying that night. Being under the age of 21 limited the places I could go, but my friends and I still found places. I was waiting for a friend, Crystal, to pick me up; from there we would travel out of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia, quite a ways away from my family.

Well, in the time it took to get off the phone with Crystal to the time she arrived to pick me up, what felt like a cold began feeling more like flu, but I was still very set on going out that night and almost did. Had I felt just a little bit better, had the onset of the disease happened the tiniest bit later I would have left with Crystal.

If I had, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t be writing this. I consider the out-of-character decision not to go out that night the first in a string of miracles. Crystal came to the door, and I didn’t go with her. I almost went, but I didn’t. After she left, I reclined back at the foot of the steps by the door, and then mustered the strength to get over to the family room couch. This is where my memories became fragmented. I would assume this is when the meningitis began to affect my brain.

What began as feeling like a cold now felt like the flu and very soon after that felt like the super flu. While still on that couch, only a few moments later, I lost control of my bodily functions. How I got from one place to another after this point, I can’t remember. What I do recall is my parents walking me into the emergency room of the hospital, being unable to walk on my own. I’m told at this point I was unable to think and talk rationally. I was confused and not making sense when I talked. After this memory I awakened, I don’t know where and I don’t know when, but I couldn’t see anything, only black. I could feel and there was something jammed up my nose. My hands, and I think feet, were strapped down. I was terrified and confused, but I had enough mental cognition and strength to pull my self down far enough to get my mouth by one of the wrist restraints then bite and pull my hand out of it. There was no one around that I was aware of. I then lost consciousness again.

I don’t know where that occurrence happened but, I was first taken to the Uniontown Hospital. My parents were very close to taking me to an urgent care facility, but for some reason changed their minds and took me to the hospital.

At Uniontown Hospital, there was great difficulty diagnosing what was wrong with me. Meningitis is very difficult to diagnose. They almost didn’t diagnose me with meningitis. However they did. Had I gone to the urgent care facility, I probably would not have been correctly diagnosed, given how difficult it is to diagnose meningitis. I consider the out-of-character decision of my parents to take me to the Uniontown Hospital instead of the urgent care facility the second miracle.

My third miracle happened in Uniontown Hospital when a doctor, who was rarely there, made the correct diagnosis. Had that doctor not been there, which is usually the case; and at the moment I was brought in, my diagnosis would have been different. The few short moments gained by this doctor’s correct diagnose determined my survival, though more still had to be done in order for me to survive, without this diagnosis those events would not have happened in time.

It was determined that I had to be life-flighted to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, but due to a snow storm the helicopter could not fly through, this wasn’t going to be possible. However, the sky opened and my life flight was made possible. (I have no memory of this flight.) Had the sky not opened at that time, the treatment that saved my life would not have taken place. This was my forth miracle. I had contracted the worst strand of bacterial meningitis, and since bacterial is worse than viral meningitis; I had contracted the worst kind of meningitis.

I regained cognition, and woke up to my parents and a doctor in a room in Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania three days after my last semi-coherent memory of my parents helping me walk into the Uniontown Hospital. I had no memory of any of those days. To me it was just like I went to sleep and woke up somewhere else.

The real victims, in my case, were my family who had to suffer the last three days given no assurance I was going to survive. Given the advancement of the disease survival was unlikely, and if I were to survive I would probably lose a limb or limbs, become blind, or brain dead or have brain damage. To the amazement of the doctors miraculously none of this happened. This was my fifth miracle.

However, I couldn’t just get up and walk out of the hospital bed the day I gained consciousness. I couldn’t see; everything was a jumbled mess. I guess you could call it extreme double vision. My sense of balance and my muscle control was shot. I went from jogging six miles a day to not being able to stand.

I went through months of sporadic physical therapy and eventually was able to walk again. My eyesight also came back.

I always dreamed of meeting my soul mate and having children. Seven years after I survived meningitis, my sixth miracle happened. I got married to my soul mate and had two beautiful children. If I hadn’t survived, this miracle would not have happened.