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Life changed drastically for Cheryl Douglass in February of 2008. Cheryl contracted a bacterial infection of the blood called Group A Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome. This rare and often fatal condition led to toxic shock, stopping blood flow to her extremities, and requiring the amputation of her arms and legs to save her life.
Cheryl was in a drug-induced state in the ICU at Georgetown University Hospital for six weeks and then transferred to NRH in April 2008 to begin the next step in her journey to recovery.
Initially, Cheryl had extremely limited movement and was unable to even lift her arms or legs off the bed. After a lot of dedication and practice with her prosthetic limbs, Cheryl was able to walk out of NRH on June 10, 2008.
Today, Cheryl is doing remarkably well and can perform the tasks of everyday life that most people take for granted. Cheryl continues to work on her rehabilitation and goes to outpatient physical therapy when she is at home in Chevy Chase. She is also working on a cookbook for upper extremity amputees. Cheryl picks a recipe and does the cooking while a friend gives techniques and tips to make the process easier and faster.
Along with her cooking project, Cheryl is paying it forward to other amputees. She is a certified mentor and visits soldiers and patients in hospitals. “Having four (prosthetic limbs), if I walk in to see somebody with only one amputation they may feel more optimistic,” said Douglass.
Cheryl’s primary message about her experience is simple: “It’s not the end of the world, you are temporarily disabled but you will get back to a normal life. Don’t feel badly about using your family and friends, they help enormously. Also, you can’t be shy about going outdoors or else you will end up staying indoors all of the time. Get out there and don’t worry about what people think of you.”