Vacationing COVID nurse who lost both hands and feet from rare meningitis not giving up

Jon Aquino, 37, of Washington Township, N.J. continues his recovery from meningitis which led to the amputation of his hands and feet. Photo: NJ.com

By Bill Duhart, NJ.com

Kay Aquino said she cried every day for a month, maybe longer, sometimes multiple times a day.

She and her husband Jon were facing a life-or-death crisis over the summer, and, even if he survived, life would likely never be the same.

Jon, 37, a COVID-19 hospital ward nurse in Gloucester County, had contracted a rare case of strep meningitis during a Jersey Shore vacation. By the time the disease could be treated, his hands and feet had turned multiple colors from sepsis and his best chance for survival was to amputate them. Sepsis is a condition that occurs when the body’s response to infection damages its own tissues, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“The doctors were surprised about our approach,” said Kay, 34, who is also a nurse. “We were very proactive about him getting the amputations, because we knew there was nothing that could be done. So when you know nothing can be done, you have to move forward. You can’t move forward until you get rid of dead stuff.”

Nearly four months later, Jon is still recovering in a rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia. He spent seven weeks at Cooper University Hospital in Camden before that. Once an avid runner, Kay said her husband has vowed to eventually run again, and return to work after being fitted with prosthetics. He is also considering being matched for a hand transplant from a cadaver.

His spirit and their shared profession of nursing continues to help them navigate an uncertain future.

Jon’s fellow nurses at Jefferson Stratford Hospital have started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $1 million for surgeries that may not be covered by his health insurance, including the hand transplant.

Kay and Jon Aquino; Jon with his two daughters. GoFundMe photos

Kay said her tears stopped when Jon awoke after several days in and out of consciousness at Cooper.

“It decreased a lot when I realized that Jon was still Jon,” she said. “His personality was the same, his mind was the same. Because I knew he was going to be okay. I haven’t cried since then.”

During her month of anguish from late August until mid-September, Jon was fighting for his life. He spent weeks at Cooper just trying to get stable enough for treatment and surgery to remove his limbs. He recovered from liver failure and continues to recover from kidney failure.

“To have this kind of challenge in front of them is absolutely overwhelming, regardless of what kind of background they have,” said Bill Quick, Jon’s boss, the nursing manager of the medical and surgical unit of Jefferson Stratford Hospital. “His condition was unstable for a long period. We were concerned if he was going to live. You have to hurdle one mountain at a time. The first one was if he was going to survive.”

Quick said Jon’s coworkers quickly organized the fundraising campaign. He said they all know how expensive healthcare can be and that many aspects of his recovery may not be covered.

The Go Fund Me Account has raised $58,500 in two months. Quick said he believes Jon will still have a career at Jefferson when he recovers.

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” Quick asked. “It does not make sense. I don’t doubt one bit he will run again.”

Kay said Jon is “kicking butt” during his rehab at McGee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. She said he is already able to feed himself, comb his hair and do other grooming with the use of a temporary prosthetic device, and is able to transfer from a wheelchair in and out of bed and on to a shower chair. She said he is motivated to get home to Washington Township, Gloucester County, and to see his daughters, who are 4 years old and 5-months.

“All I want to say is thank you to everyone for all your love and support for our family through this time,” Jon said in a text message Friday night sent by Kay. “We appreciate it so much and love you all.”

This article, originally published in NJ.com, has generated more than 3,700 shares. Here is the GoFundMe link to donate:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/jon-aquinos-road-to-recovery



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