Sinus infection turns into serious illness
Local seventh grader battles meningitis for two months.
Jessica Gage likes to ride her bike, play basketball and watch television.
Although the Gothenburg seventh grader can still watch television, the other two activities are out—at least for awhile.
While battling meningitis, Jessica was hospitalized for 4 weeks, from Labor Day until Oct. 4.Meningitis is an infection caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
On Oct. 4, Jessica was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln where she’s re-learning how to speak and walk because swelling of her brain affected the right side of her body.
To relieve swelling, doctors removed a portion of her skull that won’t be reattached until March, according to Jessica’s grandmother, Ruth Gage of Maxwell.
A specially-designed helmet protects her skull and skin pulled over the hole. The bone flap, that was removed, is stored safely in Jessica’s stomach.
Storing part of the brain-protecting skull is what doctors had planned for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Ruth said.
Giffords was shot in the head in an Arizona shopping mall in January of 2011.
Reports said doctors froze part of Giffords’ skull to later replace the hole in her skull but in May, used a fabricated segment instead.
A portion of Jessica’s skull was placed in fatty tissue in her belly to stay healthy and unexposed to bacteria.
Jessica, who is the daughter of Rodney and Pam Gage of Gothenburg, contracted meningitis a couple of weeks after school started on Aug. 18.
“She had headaches and went to the doctor and it was diagnosed as sinus infection,” Ruth said.
When Jessica awoke on Labor Day with a severe headache, her parents took her to the emergency room and a CAT scan was performed.
Because of the severity of the infection, Ruth said her granddaughter was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney where she underwent surgery to drain sinus cavities.
An MRI showed more infection outside of the brain and she was diagnosed with meningitis which can be a complication of sinus infection, Ruth said.
Jessica was then flown to Children’s Hospital in Omaha where she had more surgery.
Ruth said doctors could have drilled holes to drain the infection but, because of swelling, it wasn’t an option.
Instead, they removed part of Jessica’s skull, scraped infection from the brain and sewed skin over the hole.
Another complication, she said, is that the swelling caused a blood clot in Jessica’s brain.
Until she quits taking blood thinner to prevent the clot from breaking, and until the brain returns to normal size, Ruth said surgery is out of the question.
Since the ordeal began, the grandmother said she’s learned much.
By watching her granddaughter sedated and on a ventilator for three weeks, along with Jessica’s parents, she said she learned “there’s nothing too important that I can’t go sit in a hospital for four weeks.”
Without God’s healing, Ruth said Jessica probably wouldn’t have lived.
In fact, her granddaughter’s condition was so serious in the beginning, Ruth said one doctor wondered if the young girl would be alive at the end of the first week.
“With all of the prayers, she’s now very much improved,” Ruth said.
To keep up with schoolwork, she said Jessica attends a learning academy through Madonna.
On Tuesday, Pam Gage said medical officials still don’t know when Jessica can return home.
“Her walking and speech are improving but she’s really missing home,” Pam said.
Pam added that if parents suspect any kind of infection, they should take their children to a doctor.
“If antibiotics don’t work, go back and get it taken care of,” she said.