Superbug leaves Sarnia woman paralyzed

Sue VanEkeren

Cathy Dobson

A Sarnia woman who once owned a local party store and liked nothing better than to make others smile is now in desperate need.

Sue VanEkeren, 51, is bedridden at Parkwood Rehabilitation Centre in London virtually unable to move from the neck down.

Her family has been told she will be discharged Dec. 11 but lack the resources to provide expensive medical equipment VanEkeren will need, including a wheelchair.

“She’s strong, much stronger than I imagined, but reality is starting to set in,” said Anita Fioroni, VanEkeren’s 29-year-old daughter.

“It’s really hard for her, and for us, to realize what’s happened to my mom.”

VanEkeren was rushed to hospital with a swollen knee in June and discovered she had contracted an MRSA staph infection. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is a hard-to-treat bacteria and often occurs in people who have been in hospital or health-care facilities.

The VanEkeren’s family doesn’t know where she picked up the antibiotic-resistant bug.

The infection spread through her body, settled in her lungs and attacked her joints and spinal cord. She was on life support at London’s critical care trauma unit for several weeks.

“She’s completely paralyzed now but I am just happy she’s alive and able to speak to us,” said Fioroni. “They offered to take her off life support five or six times and she chose to hang on. That’s how strong she is.”

VanEkeren’s progress has been slow but steady. She can now breathe independently and has regained very limited movement in her upper body.

“She has a lot of ups and downs,” said her sister Irene Rose. “Now they tell us she will be discharged from Parkwood and we need to help her.”

Not long ago VanEkeren owned Smiles Party Supplies on Mitton Street and got a real kick out of delivering lawn signs for birthday celebrations, Rose said.

“Now she’s a quadriplegic and the doctors are not expecting she’ll get movement below the waist. It’s not looking good, but we’re hoping there will still be some improvement.”

The family estimates $20,000 to $40,000 will be needed for medical equipment and personal support. The government and insurance will assist to some degree, said Rose. “But not a lot is covered.”

A community fundraiser is planned for Nov. 29 to help VanEkeren return home. She is single with two grown children and a grandchild.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT:  “Love and Support for Sue VanEkeren” featuring the Mudd Buttons band, silent auction, DJ, raffle and prizes.

WHERE: RCNA (Navy Club), 1420 Lougar Ave.

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 29, 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.

TICKETS: $10.  Call 519-337-0268 or 519-331-6357

MORE: Visit Facebook at Help Sue Roll Home.