“The first 364 days of 2004 were pretty darn good,” Smithtown resident Mike LaForgia told a group of congregants and community members at Temple Emanu-El of East Meadow on March 11.
Organized by the Temple’s Social Action Committee, LaForgia, a bacterial meningitis survivor and double amputee, began his story by telling the audience how well his life was going before contracting the often-deadly bacterial infection. At age 39, he was married with three children, a successful bank executive and an athlete having completed two New York City Marathons, several half marathons and a half Ironman triathlon. LaForgia was feeling “at the top of his game” as he described, but that would all change on Dec. 31, 2004.
While vacationing in Maine to celebrate the New Year, LaForgia awoke with what appeared to be flu-like symptoms. Little did he know, the 103-degree fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting was the beginning of a sickness that would nearly take his life. After cutting his vacation short and rushing home, on Jan. 2, 2005, LaForgia awoke to use the bathroom and upon returning to bed, his wife saw a purple rash all over his body. Deciding to take him to the hospital, Donna LaForgia heaved her 200-pound, unconscious husband on her back and fireman-carried him down a flight of steps, put him into the car and rushed him to a local hospital.
Once at the hospital, doctors ran tests on LaForgia. “We don’t know what it is,” one doctor told Donna, “but he won’t make it through the night.” LaForgia’s body was going through septic shock. His heart was weakening and his liver, kidneys and other organs were shutting down. His family decided to transfer him to Stony Brook University Medical Center for more advanced care.