In 2017, the last thing Christopher Grubisa expected to happen was to end up in the Hospital for 7 months, 3 1/2 half of those were at the Joseph M Still Burn Center, ultimately having all four limbs amputated (quadruple amputee) and requiring many reconstructive surgeries. Christopher had contracted a rare disease called Meningococcal Neisseria Meningitis, the first case of its kind in the CSRA in 2 decades.
“I walked into the emergency room, and then I never left,” Christopher said, “The last thing I remember is getting in the car to go to the hospital.”
Meningitis is a fast-acting, dangerous disease. Many people are exposed to the airborne illness each year, but only a few contract it. One of the signature aspects of meningitis is a rash that spreads throughout the body and causes tissue damage – damage that often presents itself similar to burn wounds.
“It was like my skin was burning from the inside out, and I lost a lot of skin,” Christopher said.
Christopher required several reconstructive surgeries to place skin grafts across much of his body, including his face. Beyond that, the tissue damage was so severe that both of his legs and both of his arms required amputation. Even as recently as 2021, 4 years after his initial hospital stay, one of Christopher’s legs had to have an additional amputation, going from an amputation at the knee to above the knee.
During all of these difficult and terrifying times, Christopher’s family was able to stay by his side thanks to the Burn Foundation of America services. From his initial entrance at University Hospital, to the JMS Burn Center, to his time in a rehab facility, the Grubisa family has been welcomed at the Chavis House and Burn Foundation of America offices through it all. The family was invited to receive free meals and a place to rest at the Chavis House if needed.
The Burn Foundation of America was also instrumental in providing necessary accessibility devices that Christopher needed to continue his healing journey without worrying about the cost. Burn Foundation staff also helped connect Christopher with the Burke County Sheriff Office that helped fined a builder, John Highsmith, who designed and built a wheelchair-accessible home for Christopher and his children through the help of everyone in the community. The house was built just two miles from his parents’ home, which has been an instrumental part of Christopher’s healing journey and has helped begin the road to further independence.
“With my prosthetic, thanks to tremendous help and newfound friendship at Augusta Orthopedics and Prosthetics, (AOPI) I’m now able to get into my truck and drive without any other adjustments.” Christopher says that through all his treatments, day-to-day struggles, and pain, it’s his children that keep him going and motivate him to get up every morning.
“It’s hard. I used to be very active, going to the gym every day. It’s hard to adjust to being in a wheelchair and not being able to do what I used to do. But my kids, it’s like every time they hug me, I can’t hug them tight enough. I just don’t want to let go Christopher says, tearing up. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Family is powerful medicine. We say this every day at the Burn Foundation because we know it is true. We’ve seen it in every family that uses Burn Foundation services, and the Grubisa family knows it to be true from experience.