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Sean E.'s Story

Sean E.'s Story

Sean E. was at home in Ogdensburg when, suddenly,everything changed. “The pain was worse than anything I had ever experienced in my life,” says Sean, 58, a filmmaker and professor at NYU. “Everything hurt.” Just in time, he called a friend. “If I had waited any longer, I wouldn’t have remembered how to work the phone,” he says. His friend called the police, who arranged for an ambulance. Every bump in the road caused him to cry out in pain. By the time the ambulance arrived at Newton Medical Center, Sean was terrified and confused. “At one stage, I decided that I had been kidnapped by the CIA, who I imagined were using pain therapy to alter my personality,” he says. “I couldn’t see properly and was in so much pain that any stimulus set me off.”

A Deadly Crisis Averted

Sean was actually suffering from life-threatening bacterial meningitis. “I was lucky because one of the hospital’s infectious disease specialists knew of a cluster of cases similar to mine in New York City, where I worked,” Sean says. “His knowledge and quick thinking undoubtedly saved my life. If the team at Newton hadn’t put me on the right treatments immediately, I would have died within a day.”

The entire care team “offered more of themselves than their jobs demanded, or I had any right to expect,” Sean says, “from the nurses who came and put in the port, which I would need for the injections I would get for the next three months … to the ICU nurse who kept me informed about what was happening every day. ”His family could not be with him, Sean says, “but during that week and a half, the staff and doctors at Newton were my family. I will never forget their kindness and generosity.”

Learning How Lucky He Was

During his recovery, Sean was interviewed by experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which investigates dangerous disease outbreaks. “Almost half of the people who had my illness passed away,” he says. “The fact that I was able to walk away from this terrible illness whole is an incredible gift.” Today, Sean is back teaching, making films and has founded a nonprofit, The Flower Project, with the mission of connecting artists with wider communities. “I am lucky to be here,” he says. “I am committed to making the most of this new phase of my life.”