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This Quadruple Amputee Will Inspire You to Overcome Any Tragedy

Reader's Digest Canada Logo By Bruce Grierson, Reader's Digest Canada of Reader's Digest Canada | Slide 1 of 4: On March 18, 2017, Verna Marzo awoke in her Calgary apartment with crushing abdominal pain. It was 4 a.m. and the analgesic she took did nothing to ease her suffering. Her roommates decided to drive her to the nearest emergency department.
The 44-year-old had been living for a year with a cyst that doctors had discovered pressed up against an ovary. It was likely benign and would shrink on its own, she was told. But at the hospital, tests revealed that the cyst had grown to the size of a grapefruit. Worse, Marzo’s pain and fever suggested it might have ruptured. Knowing she would need emergency surgery, doctors ordered her transferred to Foothills Medical Centre by ambulance.
The chief physician on call that night recommended a full hysterectomy. Marzo, who wanted the ordeal to end, consented emphatically—“Get it out!”—and was whisked to an operating room.
By morning, with the surgery completed, Marzo was recovering in the intensive care unit, but something was still wrong. She had a raging fever and her abdomen was distended. When ICU physician Dr. Paul McBeth arrived for his shift at 8 a.m., he scrutinized her file. Taking out a cyst is a fairly straightforward operation, he thought, but she’s clearly in shock. “We’re missing something,” he told his residents.
Marzo’s sister Debie, who had been at the hospital the night before, gasped when she parted the curtain to visit again that morning. Marzo had ballooned overnight due to fluid leaking from her blood vessels. Her sister, it struck Debie, had “tripled in size.”
Meanwhile, Marzo’s blood pressure had crashed, her tissues were oxygen-starved and she was breathing with the help of a ventilator. Doctors chose to put her into a coma so her body wouldn’t have to work so hard, and gave her high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to combat infection.
Marzo’s body was in shock, but there are many different kinds of shock. The doctors went into detective mode. McBeth peppered Debie with questions in the family waiting room. Had her sister been travelling? Did she have any allergies? Could she have overdosed? What was the family history?

Leap of Faith

On March 18, 2017, Verna Marzo awoke in her Calgary apartment with crushing abdominal pain. It was 4 a.m. and the analgesic she took did nothing to ease her suffering. Her roommates decided to drive her to the nearest emergency department.

The 44-year-old had been living for a year with a cyst that doctors had discovered pressed up against an ovary. It was likely benign and would shrink on its own, she was told. But at the hospital, tests revealed that the cyst had grown to the size of a grapefruit. Worse, Marzo’s pain and fever suggested it might have ruptured. Knowing she would need emergency surgery, doctors ordered her transferred to Foothills Medical Centre by ambulance.

The chief physician on call that night recommended a full hysterectomy. Marzo, who wanted the ordeal to end, consented emphatically—“Get it out!”—and was whisked to an operating room.

By morning, with the surgery completed, Marzo was recovering in the intensive care unit, but something was still wrong. She had a raging fever and her abdomen was distended. When ICU physician Dr. Paul McBeth arrived for his shift at 8 a.m., he scrutinized her file. Taking out a cyst is a fairly straightforward operation, he thought, but she’s clearly in shock. “We’re missing something,” he told his residents.

Marzo’s sister Debie, who had been at the hospital the night before, gasped when she parted the curtain to visit again that morning. Marzo had ballooned overnight due to fluid leaking from her blood vessels. Her sister, it struck Debie, had “tripled in size.”

Meanwhile, Marzo’s blood pressure had crashed, her tissues were oxygen-starved and she was breathing with the help of a ventilator. Doctors chose to put her into a coma so her body wouldn’t have to work so hard, and gave her high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to combat infection.

Marzo’s body was in shock, but there are many different kinds of shock. The doctors went into detective mode. McBeth peppered Debie with questions in the family waiting room. Had her sister been travelling? Did she have any allergies? Could she have overdosed? What was the family history?

© Photo: Courtesy of Verna Marzo

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