St. Joe Co. Clerk returns to work as her fungal meningitis battle continues
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A high profile local victim of the nationwide meningitis outbreak is trying to get her life back on track after being hospitalized on October 15th of last year. Terri Rethlake, the Saint Joseph County Clerk said she contracted fungal meningitis after she got the steroids injected into her back to relieve her chronic back pain at the South Bend Clinic.
Terri said a few days after her injection she started to develop odd side effects and soon after was notified by the South Bend Clinic that the vile she was injected with came from one of the lot numbers that contained the contaminated medicine.
Thousands of people got the same contaminated shot across the country. The CDC currently reports that 678 people have developed fungal meningitis as a result and 44 people have died.
The case count for Indiana tonight stands at 73. 9 people in the Hoosier state have died. 283 cases have been reported in Michigan and the infection has pr oven deadly for 12 of the victims.
Terri has worked in the courthouse since 1979. She recently returned to her position as County Clerk this month on a part time basis but she is still suffering the side effects of this situation. Today as she sat at her desk she told ABC 57 News that she was suffering a pretty bad headache, light sensitivity and a nose bleed.
Terri said, "Unfortunately a lot of people died and I'm grateful that I wasn't one of them."
She admits while in the hospital her health got so bad she thought it might have been her time to go. In fact she told that to her colleague Rita Glenn, the St. Joseph County Deputy Clerk, when Rita came to visit her hospital room.
"I had every side effect I think you can imagine," said Terri.
Rita who has known Terri for decades said it was a hard pill to swallow. She considered Terri much more than a colleague. "It's never a fun way to watch somebody think that their life is passing right in front of you," said Rita.
Terri's road to recovery hasn't been very pleasant either.
"I hallucinated both visually and auditory and I was throwing up and from the drugs they are giving me to counteract the side effects because I had restless leg syndrome really bad. My legs at night just wouldn't stop," Terri said.
Right now she is taking life day by day. "I come in, I only work part-time and Rita makes sure that I only work part-time."
Rita said she's, "Glad to have her back and we'll just shut off that light when we think she's tired, so she can come back the next day just a little stronger."
Going through this ordeal has given Terri a better appreciation for life. "You don't take it for granted anymore," she said.
And the tight group of women who work in the the County Clerk's office said that going through this ordeal together has made the appreciation reciprocal.
Terri said while fighting back her emotions, "We've become a pretty good family, this has made us a lot closer."
She said she isn't quite sure how long she'll have to be on the medication to fight the fungal meningitis and she said her doctor isn't quite sure either. She suspects she'll be getting another MRI soon to reveal if the infection is still in her body or not.