Seeking a ‘new normal’Roxy Mueller’s goal is straightforward, her determination steadfast. She wants to dance at her son’s wedding.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Roxy Mueller’s goal is straightforward, her determination steadfast. She wants to dance at her son’s wedding.
But for the 52-year-old Cottage Grove resident and former District 833 bus driver, nothing is so simple these days.
A battle last year with bacterial meningitis left her life hanging in the balance while she lay comatose for 10 days and spent three months in four different hospitals. Amputations cost her eight fingers and both legs, just below the knees.
It was “a great big stroke of bad luck,” Mueller said, one that has left the lives of her and Leo, her husband of 32 years, profoundly changed.
But she’s too busy moving forward, working toward her goal to sit and mope, she says.
Last week she sat in her kitchen with Leo and talked of everyday discoveries of things she can still do — knit, fold, write, type — and what she’s determined to do: get a pair of prosthetic legs, get out of her wheelchair and dance with her son Rick when the 27-year-old is married this August in St. Paul.
“Oh, I do have pity parties,” she said, “but I leave early. They’re boring.”
Almost $1.5 million in medical bills have been covered by the Muellers’ insurance. But the prosthetics that will allow Roxy to walk, to dance and tend to her hilly backyard garden are staggeringly expensive — and not completely covered by the couple’s insurance.
Saturday, friends and family will host a benefit for Mueller at the VFW Red Barn in Cottage Grove, where donations will go to help defer the costs of Roxy’s prosthetics.
“Getting legs will mean a lot to me,” she said. “It opens up my independence, it frees up Leo’s time. It’ll mean the world.”
It started with a headache
It was a crisp, clear October day when Mueller first felt the signs of an illness that would ravage her body so badly doctors at Woodwinds Hospital gave her little chance of surviving.
Her head ached; she was exhausted. The next morning Mueller reached for a glass when Leo noticed dark, purplish bruises all over her slender arms and body — it was coagulated blood pooled under her skin, symptomatic of the halted blood flow caused by bacterial meningitis.
Immediately, he called 911 — a move doctors told the couple, married almost 32 years, saved Roxy’s life.
“The doctor said, ‘she’s as sick as a person can be without dying,’” Leo said.
He stayed by her side, sleeping on a cot for the two weeks she spent in critical condition. The amputations came later, after doctors determined they couldn’t save her legs.
But Roxy survived.
Now, Mueller says, comes the new battle, one that reveals itself in odd little ways each day: finding a “new normal.”
“You could sit at home and be mopey about it, but that’s kind of an evil thing,” she said. “Almost every day I find there’s something different I can do.”
Writing letters with a pen and paper is slow and difficult. But Roxy, with pen wedged in the crook between her thumb and knuckles, can scratch out correspondence, letter-by-letter, word-by-word.
Typing is slow, too, hunting and pecking at the keyboard to communicate with friends and family.
And there’s been a lot of that to do, Roxy and Leo say — hundreds of well-wishers have offered support and encouragement that the couple said has been immensely important the past six months.
Already, Mueller is testing out prosthetic legs, one step on a long road she hopes will soon have her dancing.
“This horrible thing chewed me up,” Mueller said, “but it spit me out. I’m here. I can do things.”