“Until this happened,” she said, “I thought we had lived a charmed life. If something bad happened, I always could think, ‘But I don’t have a sick child.’ ”
Doctors put Alexis on an intravenous drip with the broadest spectrum of antibiotics, and she was wheeled into the operating room every few days so doctors could cut away dead muscle and tissue.
In a novel intervention, small beads of cement that had been immersed in antibiotics were delivered directly to the wound and replaced during each surgery, DeBiasi said.
Eventually, the infection was eradicated, and Alexis went to MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital for a few weeks to start the very long process back to full recovery.
That’s where she turned 16, and her mother organized a party complete with Italian food and 40 of Alexis’s closest friends and relatives, including her 14-year-old sister, Haley.
“It wasn’t the sweet 16 I had been planning, but it was probably the best party I ever had,” Alexis said.
Once a seasoned athlete who played soccer competitively, Alexis knows she has to learn again how to walk and will always have to use a small brace, although people who don’t know she has it won’t be able to tell, she said. One day, she hopes to run again.
Alexis doesn’t remember the first several weeks of the worst part of her ordeal, but she says the experience has changed her.
“Even though it can be frustrating to have to deal with this, there are always people who are worse off,” she said. “I saw them in the hospital and in rehab. What we consider normal — going to college, getting a job, getting married — isn’t going to happen for those people. . . . It just makes you look at life differently.”
Alexis is now being tutored at home, and she knows she likely won’t graduate with her friends.
Lily, a 16-year-old junior, decided that she wanted to thank the doctors who saved her best friend, so she launched the “Alexis Healing Project,” a nonprofit effort to raise funds for Children’s Hospital.
The project, in partnership with Charm Georgetown, designed a “healing bracelet” made from wood and stone as a testament to Alexis’s determination and her friends’ commitment to helping her recover.
Lily and Haley and Alexis’s other close friends were with her every step of the way on Friday, when she returned to school, her first big outing. Before the pep rally started, Whitman Principal Alan Goodwin escorted her in her wheelchair to the gym and ordered her friends “to protect her leg” when friends rushed over to see her.
When she was crowned over two other girls as princess, not a word was uttered about her ordeal. Alexis was just fine with that.
“I love this school,” she said. “I am just so happy to be here.”