CUSHING If Sue Stull was nervous, the big smile across her face didn't show it.
With a black harness wrapped around her neon green T-shirt with the words Team Sueprinted across the front, she climbed inside a Cessna 182 plane bound for 10,000 feet.
Almost two miles up, Stull and an instructor tumbled out of the plane in a front flip. They spun through the air, free falling for about 5,000 feet roughly 35 seconds before a blue-and-white parachute sprung open.
Stull's husband, Jay, and son, Devin, 16, along with her prosthetist and a cluster of others who had gathered below to watch, cheered and snapped photos as the duo slid to a smooth landing in a grassy field at the Oklahoma Skydiving Center as a fiery orange sun sank into the horizon.
It was awesome, Stull said, her blonde hair windswept from the free fall.
A year ago, shenever imagined she would be able to go skydiving. Saturday, she already was talking about her next jump. For Stull, 42, of Choctaw, the experience meant more than simply crossing an item off her bucket list.
Last August, Stull was in a fight for her life as she battled septic shock. Her lungs, kidneys and liver had all failed, and doctors told her family to say their final goodbyes.
Stull survived, defying the odds, but she had to have her arms and legs amputated below her elbows and knees. She was determined not to let what happened keep her from achieving something she always wanted to do.
It's liberating, Stull said. I didn't feel handicapped while I was up there or while I was coming down. It just was so fun and so exciting. It was nice and awesome to see that I can still do things. A year ago, if you had told me I would be able to do this, I would never have believed it.
The journey for Stull and her family during the past year has been long and arduous. Oftentimes, the obstacles they faced seemed insurmountable. Each day still is filled with challenges, but Stull finally is able to look back and at least say that she is in a better place today than she was this time last year.
Sometimes it's being grateful for what you have and not bitter about what you don't have, shesaid.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that is difficult to predict diagnose and treat, according to medical sources. It occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the worst cases, sepsis causes a person's blood pressure to drop and heart to weaken, leading to septic shock, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stull doesn't know what caused herto go into septic shock last summer.
On a Wednesday night in early August, she started feeling sick with flu-like symptoms. She called out of her job as a circulation clerk at the Choctaw Library the next day and wound up going to the emergency room in the early morning hours Friday.Staff checked her over and said she had a viral infection. They said it would get worse before it got better, so sheand her husband weren't overly alarmed at first when her condition worsened.
Stull went back to the emergency room Saturday morning. This time, she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.After three days in the ICU, doctors told herhusband that family members should say their final goodbyes.
Jay Stull told his family they no longer needed a miracle; they needed a miracle of miracles.
That night, he stood at his wife's bedside and stroked her hair. Hereyes were closed, and she was hooked up to a breathing tube.Her lungs, kidneys and liver had shut down.
Jay Stull did his best to explain what was happening. He recalled telling his wife:If you get to the point you don't want to fight anymore, you just need to let me know.
Sue Stull opened her eyes and shot her husband a dirty look.
Heknew then that they were still in the game; shewas still fighting.
Soon after, a doctor suggested they try an intravenous immunoglobulin treatment,which involves using a sterile solution of concentrated antibodies that are taken from healthy people and administered directly into a vein.By the next morning, Stullhad started to show some small signs of improvement.
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