Michael Money has lost an arm, but he still wants to find a new career. He says he's too young at 46 to stay idle.
The affable Bellingham resident, who wants others to know the danger of the bacterial disease that struck him, needs financial and occupational help, and he isn't afraid to ask for it.
Last March, Money was unknowingly infected with necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called "flesh-eating bacteria." A few days later, surgeons removed his right arm well above elbow to save his life.
Question: Now that you've lost an arm, are you still determined to find work?
Answer: If I could find something I love, I would definitely want to keep working. I think I could sell real estate. I actually have my heart set on it, but I don't quite know where to start.
Q: Do you need more surgery?
A: I definitely need more surgery. I'm in pain all the time and my arm feels like the bone is going to pop through the area (where his right arm ends). I'm going back to Harborview Medical Center (in Seattle) for more surgery. That's where I had follow-up care after the surgery at St. Joseph.
Q: Are you also seeking a prosthetic arm?
A: Absolutely. I need the surgery, then I want to begin life over with a prosthetic arm. I do have a doctor who is behind me 100 percent on this, but I'm low-income and need financial help to get a prosthetic arm.
Q: You say this was your second major arm problem?
A: Eight years ago I sliced off fingers on my left hand in an accident at home. Surgeons re-attached my fingers, but I don't have the ability to use my hand effectively for the kind of heavy work I had done since I was 17; working with tires, metal, woodwork, saws.
Q: How did you become infected?
A: Last March I was changing the steering box on my pickup truck and I cut the center knuckle on my right hand against the inside of the fender well. I have had dozens of cuts during my working career. I went on working, like I always have, but I cleaned my hand when I finished. I washed up, but apparently it wasn't clean enough; a man like me, your hands get permanently stained. I just thought it was another cut.
Q: When did you realize you were in trouble?
A: The next day I was trying to get the control-arm bolt loose on my truck and I wound up with a fracture on the same hand. I went in to receive treatment and was told I would heal in a few weeks. But nothing showed yet from the cut; the bacteria were rapidly growing inside.
A couple of days later my arm was swollen and it was hurting so badly I couldn't take it. So I went back to the hospital for what I thought was a routine visit related to my hand injury and to take care of the pain I was feeling.
Q: And then?
A: The doctors diagnosed everything within an hour and wound up saving my life. I was told I had to decide within five minutes whether I would let them take the arm, or I would die. I begged them to save my arm if they could, but it was too late.
The decision was a no-brainer. I wanted to live. I have my girlfriend. I have my mom, Carol Susmilch, and other family members and friends. The doctors did the right thing. Now I'm nervous about the follow-up surgery, but I have faith in the doctors.
Q: You seem like you're handling this well.
A: I have a lot to live for. I just need some help.
Carol Susmilch, Michael Money's mother, says donations can be donated at any Wells Fargo bank branch with checks made to "Carol Susmilch for M. Money," and a note that the donation goes to account No. 7074. People also can go to Facebook.com/susmilch and click on the link under "Favorites" for donation information.
Details: Carol Susmilch, 360-820-3166, or Michael Money, 360-739-9404.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.