Meningitis in your words

Matthew Cashbaugh's story

  • Location: USA
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Partner
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Matthew Cashbaugh
Matthew Cashbaugh - Meningitis in your words
Spouse’s story:

We started off the week on our annual family cruise. We normally cruise in February, but I requested to go over our son’s 6th birthday due to it also being my late grandmother’s birthday and the first time she was not earth bound celebrating it. It’s now a hard and joyous day for me being away I thought would make it easier. Nicholas was elated to celebrate on the “boat ship.” Matthew had mentioned on the second day his throat hurt, but we did not think much of it due to weather changes. Our first stop, Matthew didn’t get off the boat because of some other symptoms not related to the throat we did not realize they were serious. He said he felt better after spending the day in bed. The next day, we were at our favorite island, The Caymans, and Matt decided to do his dive. We were all unaware that Matt was fighting off Strep A.

When he got back to the ship, he told us all about his dive and seeing sharks! That night, he started to complain about his ears, it was a slow process. Our next stop, we were in Cozumel and went to the pharmacy and got some steroid ear drops. We tried those. He kept fiddling with his ear, but still took care of the kids and myself. The last night of his cruise, he didn’t truly feel good, but he still found it with in him to take the kids and pick me out a beautiful necklace and earring set from Pandora and do activities with the kids. Matt is the type of Man that makes us three his first priority. We were back to Texas but not off the ship yet, it was around 5am. He screamed and there was blood on his pillow. He really, really didn’t feel good. His ear drums burst and he thought he’d feel better, but he didn’t. I remember running down to his parent’s room to tell them and we made a plan to stop at a med stop when we debarked in two hours.

We went straight to the urgent care and they called meds in and we waited in Texas to pick them up before driving home. Matthew threw up and slept the whole way home. We had no idea he was septic. We decided to go to the ER (emergency room) as soon as we got home. Kids and I got out and Dave took Matthew straight to the ER and they called in more antibiotics. Matt came home and after 30-45 minutes being home, it wasn’t just a ruptured ear drum. Something wasn’t right. I saw his nail beds looked dark blue and I just knew something was wrong. I panicked (went bat shit crazy) and Dave took him back in. This is when I felt my world fall apart. I got the call from Dave to come straight to the hospital after a couple hours of them being back there for the second time. 

Matt’s brother came over to watch the kids and I went in. I have never seen Matt scream like that our act like that. Matthew is mellow and calm by nature. He was wild and jumping out of bed screaming that he couldn’t feel his legs. He could answer questions about our kids as they tried to distract him, but his pain was overpowering. They decided to intubate him and he coded during the process. I was right outside the room and remember sliding down the wall before led to a conference room where I puked my guts out. I asked everyone I saw “is he alive?” Matt was quickly transferred to the ICU (intensive care unit) at Trinity while they tried to get Areomed to fly, but the weather was making that impossible.

The Areomed ground crew took him and he went straight into the heart center ICU at Corewell/Spectrum. That is where we learned about Matthew diagnoses after testing and testing. At first, we thought they ruled out meningitis and we were relieved, but then the cultures grew. The fight for his life grew more intense. My world shattered. Matthew had Strep A bacterial meningitis that went septic. I could not function unless I was sitting at the end of his hospital bed. I lived off eating his Busia’s beat soup because I couldn’t keep anything else down. Finally, by the second week, I got it somewhat together, or the people around me were just amazing.

With the testing showing he wasn’t having seizures, and his numbers creeping towards stabilizing I began to parent our kiddos again. Watching him on the vent, continuous dialysis over 14 IV meds going was a lot. I read to him for hours, mainly Harry Potter. When I went home, I saw how it was affecting our kids. I had to make a hard choice to split my time before we all spiraled out of control. Thank God for family and friends. The ones who sat at night with him while I was needed at home. They took him off the vent when he showed signs of understanding with yes and no questions. I had so much hope when I walked into the hospital room that Sunday morning and he said "Hi." He talked to the kids on the phone with a “Hi, love you.” It was what they needed. They heard their daddy. I cried while my cousins held me. It was pure bliss.

Then as the day progressed, Matthew got worse. He stopped talking and answering questions all together. He was just growling in pain. It took us all sitting at his bed to keep him in it from all the trashing. They made the choice to put him back on the vent to let him recover more. I slipped into darkness. I felt like the little sunshine we had was taken. I recall a doctor mentioning if he’d even come back neurologically and I vomited at the thought. I was fearful that was our “Goodbye.” Well… Matthew just needed more time to heal. His body knew. He was looking better each day, it just didn’t help my mind. I remember having to leave the room to the waiting room five days later when they decided to take him off the vent again. I was so scared he wouldn’t be my Matt. When the doctor came out to tell me he’s okay we walked back in the room together and Matt was talking in full sentences. I just hugged the doctor crying then hugged Pat. His body and mind was ready to begin the journey back to us which is another story full of love, heartbreak, set backs, sadness, laughter, dark humor and many tears. 💕

Due to the pressor meds he was on to save his left, Matt has BTK (below-knee amputation) amputation of left foot and his working with Mayo and corewell to save his right. He's defying the odds - in hyberbaic every day doctors have never seen a whole foot that turned black come back, be he's doing it! 

This is my reason to celebrate World Meningitis Day. Thank God for doctors, nurses, RTS, CNAs, modern medicine, science and miracles. #WorldMeningitisDay

We get asked a lot about cruises…

Yes, we will cruise again.

He’s mad he’s not with his family on a cruise currently. 

Yes, Matt will dive again.

How we react to Matthew’s situation will set our kid’s up for life. We choose ☀️.

Marci Maynard 
December 2023

Matthew in his hospital bed

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