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Pamela Berkemeier
June 1, 1964 - December 23, 1995
 

Pamela's Story
As told by her Husband, Steven A. Berkemeier

February 3rd 1981. I didn't know who she was when I first met her, but I had to meet her. As she spoke to Nancy she captivated my attention, even as I attempted to help my customers. Nancy, her mother, had been my cashier for several months but I hadn't imagined this could be the Pammy from the motherhood terror stories and urgent phone calls from where ever she wasn't supposed to be. After Pam left the store, my only question to her mother was, "Who's the body?" I quickly learned this was a girl who was strong, opinionated, very intelligent, devoted to friends and family, sensual and very eager to live. We met, fell in love and were married within 5 months. She had just turned 17 years old.

As time went by we had a "normal relationship" with the strengths and trial of many other couples, and some tests other would never make it though. But, our arguments generally would end with laughter as we realized no matter what the difficulty, we were still in love and that would carry us through, and to let the small stuff get out of hand was just ridiculous.

In 1987, Pamela orchestrated the adoption bringing Samantha into our lives. Doctors had expressed doubt that we could ever successfully have a child, and adoption seemed the best solution. As Pamela wished, Samantha has always known of her adoption and expresses her pride in knowing what her Birth-parents, and what we as adoptive parents did for her in a difficult time. In August 1995 Pam even arranged for Samantha to meet her Birth-father and sister. Samantha and Kandace even attend the same elementary school in Phoenix.

March 1988 led me into the Air Force and Pamela became a "dependent", a word she despised because of her strong will and independent spirit. Zweibrucken, Germany was our first assignment, it was beautiful there but I could tell Pamela missed her family greatly, especially her mom. The phone bill proved it. But there was more. She was experiencing extreme anxiety and loneliness. Then in March 1990 a friend let Pam know what a relationship with Jesus would do in her life. And what a change it was. Gone were the fears and the uncertainty of the future. I soon accepted the Lord into my life and we were comforted by the fact that He now laid out our path and His will was our will.

In June of 1991, two month after arriving in San Angelo Texas, Logan was born to us, our "Miracle" who the doctors said was very unlikely to occur had arrived. We settled into our Air Force life, teaching Bible studies, Pamela doing every craft imaginable, it seems we made our best friends, for life, in Texas. Then suddenly my vision deteriorated and I was no longer World Wide Qualified, and quickly our security was gone. We were out of the Air Force. Our only choice was to return to Phoenix and make a new life for our family.

Pamela took the bull by the horns and planned for a career as a Nurse Midwife and started to attend classes and work part time. We split the difference with the kids and did what we could to still be good parents. I was so proud of Pam and the way she managed and still could encourage others. She even volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center counseling young women, answering phones and arranging for people in trouble to find the help they needed. Pamela even organized an adoption, serving as a birthing coach for the birth mother and liaison with the adoptive parents. The baby, Anna, was born in November 1995.

Late in November 1995, the flu struck my household. The kids first but they soon got over it. In early December Pam had a Craft Show, but the flu seemed to be holding on to her and she needed lots of rest. Pamela participated but seemed slowed. I worked outdoors and figured I had brought some bug home with me. Pamela even joked, "at least we'll never catch this again". On Tuesday the 19th of December we went to the Emergency room, Pam had thrown up a little blood and looked yellow to me. After about 7 hours in the emergency room, where they did take several tests, we left with no more than instructions to avoid contact sports and see a doctor by Thursday the 21st. Pam had a restless night at home and she was deep in thought or maybe trying to deal with the pain. The next day, the 20th a pain was getting worse in he ankle and leg muscle and she was visibly shaken and scared but felt she could see the doctor the next day at a regular appointment.

Thursday the 21st was terrible, Pam insisted I go to work while Fidel, (Nancy's husband) had arranged to take Pam to the doctors office. I was unaware that Pam had to crawl to the car. She was unable to put weight on her leg and told Fidel to take her directly to the emergency room instead of to the doctors appointment. While at the hospital, for the first few hours Pamela was ignored, overlooked and not given adequate pain medication. Also, when I called to check her condition she was not told I had called. The doctors seemed baffled. First it could be a spider bite, or a stress fracture or even blood clots. There were no wounds or scratches of any type on her leg from what I could recall from the night before. This was also noted on the hospital visit of the 20th. They did not admit Pamela until 8 hours after she arrived in emergency. Two hours after being admitted she was rushed to "critical care" because her pressures dropped. When I was finally allowed to see her she told me, "You know, Steve, if I die I am going to Heaven, so take care of the kids, I love you".

These were her last words to me.

At this time around 10 P.M., the nurse told us that they had seen this before and the nurse assured my kids that Mama would be home for Christmas and all would be fine. With this good news I went home to do a few necessary chores and Nancy took the kids so I could rest and possibly go to work the next day.

Just an hour later I was called and told to be by her side because she had taken a turn for the worse and would not make it through the night. Baffled and afraid I would not make it in time I called Nancy and returned to the hospital. Pam's pressures continued to drop and she was on a respirator now. She could not speak and she was visibly shaken and agitated. The doctors still had no concrete ideas about what was causing this but they only gave her a 1 to 2% chance at survival. As I visited her I could the beginnings of the swelling and discoloration in her leg as they searched blood clots. The nurse said that before they put Pam on the respirator said, "Good, now I can rest."

At 7 A.M. on the 22nd, Pamela suffered heart failure, she was on full support now and all of her other organs had failed or were going to soon. I was told again that any doctor who came to the floor checked in on Pamela, to offer ideas, or advice. The family was gathering to say their last good-byes. The disease or illness, whatever it was, was visibly spreading from Pamela's legs to her arms and chest. The swelling and purplish discoloration was straining her skin and I know it had torn through in some places. I later learned what to call this killer--Necrotizing Fasciitis, or NF. The name absolutely scares me since I saw what it did to Pamela I felt nothing could stop the spread of this. I touched my wife gently when I visited, hoping not to break her tender shin. At 4 p.m. in this afternoon of the 22nd of December, I was told the doctors had finally isolated the organism and had started to fight it. But, Pam's body needed time to fight the toxins in her system-and she just didn't have that kind of time.--I was right, nothing could stop this.

My partner, my wife, wasn't there anymore, I knew that God had relieved her of this pain and she had already put on her Heavenly Garments and left this would behind. As her pressures dropped and the emotional numbness took hold I met with family and friends and encouraged as best I could and didn't try to hide my tears. A song that I've heard, after all of this, came to me which says, "sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His child," I am sure He was with me during these tough hours, all through the "storm". I napped with the kids in a small room . At 3:30 a.m. on the 23rd . I awoke and knew it was time to let her body go. The family prayed in the hall, then I went in with friends to say good-bye to Pamela. As I stroked her hair and spoke of her life and how I would miss her, her "life" glided from this body, smoothly and gently, safely and comfortably--this world was finished for her. It was 4:35 a.m. on December 23, 1995. I sat with her for a few hours without machines on or hurried activities all around, I wanted to feel her peace and her presence. I always loved watching Pamela sleep, only now I knew she would awaken in a place full of greater love that we can experience here.

I didn't know the exact cause of death until I read the Death Certificate in January 1996. It said "Bronchi Pneumonia and Group A Strep". The autopsy mentioned the sloughing of skin and how the internal organs and the brain was damaged. I also read "Necrotizing Fasciitis" We would have won against pneumonia or Strep, but not all three-or could we? Where could it have been stopped and when? What is wrong with the identification and diagnoses of these killer infections that my young wife cannot be with me today? These things happen I suppose.

I am very happy for all those who have recovered and can carry the banner for conquest. I would be pleased to be in your group and applaud the doctors skills and successes on Pamela's road to recovery. But--I carry a banner too. It is a scar across my heart that will never heal, it's explaining to two young children that going to the hospital does not always make you better, and all they will ever have are memories of the best hugs mama could give, because dad hugs are not the same.

Pamela made an impact in everyone's life she ever met. I will not and can not let her be forgotten She is my life's love.

June this year was a very tough month for me. The 1st was Pam's 33rd birthday, the 22nd is Logan's birthday. The 23rd was the 18th month marking her death . And the 27th was our 16th wedding anniversary.---But, really, everyday without Pamela is tough....

Love doesn't forget--ever.


Steven A. Berkemeier
frudels02@aol.com (Nancy, Pamela's Mother)
Phoenix, AZ
June 1997
 

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