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Rare, deadly bacteria nearly fells FGHS alum

Kylie Marble recovering at OHSU after bike injury, surgeries


by: COURTESY PHOTO: KYLE MARBLE SUPPORT PAGE - A weak but conscious Kylie Marble smiles from her hospital bed at Oregon Health & Science University Sunday night. It was the first time her parents, Anita and Charlie, were able to hear their daughters voice since she was sickened by an aggressive bacterium June 15.Like a boomerang, Kylie Marble is spinning back.

Around 4 p.m. on Father’s Day, the 21-year-old Forest Grove High School alum took a spill while riding her bike along the Banks-Vernonia Trail, injuring her right knee. Her parents, Anita and Charlie Marble, took her to Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro, where doctors stitched her up and sent her home with a prescription for pain medication.

Twelve hours later she was in excruciating, uncontrollable agony.

“We were never able to get on top of it,” said Charlie, who rushed his youngest child — and only daughter — back to Tuality’s emergency room early June 16.

An aggressive bacterium called clostridium perfringens had somehow invaded Kylie’s wound and rapidly spread, killing formerly healthy tissue in her upper leg and endangering the young woman’s life. Even though incidents of in-facility infection have garnered media attention in recent years, her dad believes Kylie’s trouble started with soil along the trail.

“One spore of this getting into compromised tissue can do it,” Charlie observed of the freakish nature of the rare bug. “I doubt very much that she got it by being in the hospital — it’s just one of those things that happens.”

Tuality activated its one-year-old Sepsis Response Team for Kylie, said spokesman Gerry Ewing. Doctors and nurses worked around the clock to stem the tide of the infection, putting her on high doses of antibiotics and sedating and intubating her.

Charlie believes that team, including the first doctor to remove infected tissue, saved his daughter’s life.

Still, the “flesh-eating” bacterium — one of several types of deadly bacteria commonly given that name — was so aggressive that by Tuesday, June 17, Kylie was in septic shock.by: COURTESY PHOTO: KYLIE MARBLE SUPPORT PAGE - A love for music propelled Kylie Marble to team up with her older brother Kevin on a CD of folk songs last year.

“We thought we were going to lose her,” said Anita, a homemaker. “It’s the most terrifying thing we’ve ever been through.”

That same afternoon, surgeons performed the first of several debridements — removing infected and necrotic tissue — in a frantic effort to save Kylie’s life. “It looked like a swarm of bees working around her,” said Charlie, an inspector with the Hillsboro Fire Department.

After a transfer to the Oregon Health & Science University intensive-care unit Friday and three more surgeries, Kylie woke up Sunday evening, June 23, and spoke for the first time in almost a week. The physicians’ skills — and, the Marbles believe, the prayers of hundreds of people in the community — made that happen.

“The first thing she said is, ‘God is good,’” Charlie said. “She’s been pretty clear that she owes her life to Jesus.”

A fifth surgery, scheduled Tuesday morning, also yielded positive results. And although the Marbles — longtime Forest Grove residents with deep roots in the Gales Creek community — acknowledge the road to Kylie’s recovery remains long and unclear, they are guardedly optimistic.

“Kylie is an Australian name meaning ‘little boomerang,’” her father wrote last week on a Facebook page called Kylie Marble Support Page, which has more than 1,500 followers. “We’re praying our Kylie comes a-spinnin’ on back to us.”

Family members have been writing daily updates on social media to answer questions about Kylie’s condition and quell concerns from friends. Sunday night they posted a photo of a smiling Kylie with a small stuffed animal perched on her shoulder.

“She’s actually able to talk to us, and that’s really nice,” said Charlie. It was “just wonderful” to hear Kylie’s voice again, added Anita. “Her personality and her character were shining through.”

The blond-haired, blue-eyed Kylie, who attends Dilley Bible Church, was involved in theater and choir at FGHS. For her senior project she planned and executed the school’s annual spring talent show, sending the proceeds to a nonprofit that builds homes for families who adopt AIDS orphans in Uganda.

Kylie spent two years at Ecola Bible College on the Oregon Coast, took more classes at Portland Community College and later enrolled at Wheaton College in Illinois, where she is a second-semester junior and a communications major.

An accomplished singer, Kylie released her first folk-music CD, “People Are People,” as a free digital download in 2013 after a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com.

Apart from the physical pain and effects of the debridements, explaining the extent of the tissue removal to a newly alert Kylie was a big emotional hurdle. “She still doesn’t know exactly how much [muscle and other tissue] was taken,” her dad said. “So far she’s taking it in stride.”

Once her infection is arrested and she leaves the ICU, reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts are the next steps. Charlie expects Kylie to remain hospitalized several more weeks.

For now, a glass-half-full attitude is the name of the game. “One of the OHSU doctors told Kylie about a 16-year-old girl who had this [bacterial infection] and has gone on to have a full life, including children,” noted Charlie, who expects his “twenty-wonderful” girl to pull through and persevere.

Her mother is equally determined. “Kylie is very intentional about investing in people — she is an amazing woman with an incredible love for others,” Anita said.

Meanwhile, the Marbles say they’re “held up” by caring family members and friends who continue to post encouraging comments online.

Elisa Rau, who met Kylie at church camp, wrote that her pal is “in my phone as ‘Kindred Spirit’ ... we often call each other that.”

Joanna Fletcher remembered an afternoon when she and Kylie rode their bikes through a swarm of bugs. “When you’re with Kylie you’re guaranteed to have a fun time filled with tons of laughing,” she wrote.

And former Neil Armstrong Middle School choir director Dot Hall, who has known Kylie since she was born, recalled how “spectacular” it was “that she was a girl in a family that is predominantly male.”

All the stories warm the family’s hearts.

“We have felt that support,” said Anita. “God has been holding us up in that comfort, and we’re grateful to the community for everything.”

Charlie called the experience “a Forest Grove victory” the family owes to its neighbors and to a higher power.

“We’re thrilled that God has allowed us to keep our daughter,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We believe this is a miracle.”