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'It's good to be alive'

Forest Grove's Kylie Marble is on the road to recovery after close call with rare flesh-eating bacteria


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: KATE STRINGER - Kylie Marble, a member of the Forest Grove High School Class of 2010, smiles from her hospital bed at Oregon Health & Science University. The 21-year-old college student is recovering from a rare bacterial infection that nearly took her life.Eight feet.

That’s the distance Kylie Marble walked Sunday morning as she maneuvered down a hallway at Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University with nurses at her side.

But for the Forest Grove High School grad — whose right leg was infected two weeks ago by a rare flesh-eating bacteria — it might as well have been a marathon.

Kylie, 21, nearly lost her life to the aggressive bug, which invades and destroys healthy tissue. Her parents, Anita and Charlie, believe she contracted the bacteria when she tore her knee open in a fall from her bicycle along the Banks-Vernonia Trail on Father’s Day. Clostridium perfringens is sometimes found in soil.

For two weeks, things were touch-and-go. Kylie survived stitches, seven operations and nearly intolerable pain to “come spinning back,” as her father likes to say. But the blond singer-songwriter, who loves “Jesus and music and people,” is taking her scary saga in stride.

“I initiated a game of bike tag with my grandpa — that was my first mistake,” a smiling Kylie joked from her tenth-floor hospital room during an interview June 29.

Then, she turned deadly serious.

“It’s good to be alive,” she said. “It’s God who kept me here. But if I had died, it would have been OK. My parents had to come to a place of peace about that.”

For Charlie and Anita, that first week was a minute-by-minute nightmare they could only address through prayer — and surrender. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KATE STRINGER - Following multiple debridement surgeries to remove bacterial infection, doctors covered Kylies incisions with wound vacs, a system of antiseptic foam, wrappings and drains.

“We gave her back to God,” said Anita. “I said to Charlie at one point, ‘She’s going to be all right either way.’”

Fortunately, the Marbles did not lose their daughter, the youngest of their four children. After enduring surgeries at both Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro and at OHSU to excise ravaged and necrotic tissue from her leg — a pathway that stretched from her ankle to her groin — Kylie’s doctors were hopeful their efforts to stop the effects of “gas gangrene” had been successful.

By the weekend, they were so convinced they had conquered the infection’s mad march that they took her off all her antibiotics. “That blew me away,” said Charlie, an inspector with the Hillsboro Fire Department.

It was a mind-boggling switch from one surgeon’s somber message the day Kylie arrived on Pill Hill. That doctor told Kylie’s parents she had “a life-threatening, limb-threatening illness,” said Anita, who looked him in the eye and asked whether there were people who recovered from the affliction.

“He said he hadn’t seen many,” she said — even more of a reason for friends and family to celebrate Kylie’s remarkable turnaround.

“It’s a miracle,” said Anita, blinking back tears. “Not just one miracle, but a whole bunch of them.”

Charlie wrote on social media Monday that with Kylie stabilized, skin grafts are next on the physicians’ agenda. “There is much to the process, but it clearly marks a transition from damage control to reconstruction,” he said.

She’ll likely remain at OHSU for at least another week.

It’s been a challenge for Kylie, who loves to hike and play soccer, to process her new circumstances. Doctors removed her sartorius — the longest muscle in the human body, which runs diagonally down the length of the thigh and allows a person to cross his or her legs — a change that will require months of physical therapy.

“I’ll be able to walk again, but I’ll probably walk a little funny,” said Kylie. “It’ll be some sort of disability. I like being open, so I’ll probably talk to people about weird scars.”

The effect of Kylie’s treatments is visually dramatic. Doctors covered her incisions with “wound vacs,” protective layers of black foam and material resembling plastic wrap that drain extraneous fluid and speed healing.

She’s receiving a few visitors at a time — including brothers Justin, Kevin and Joel — and is grateful for the prayers and well-wishes of folks near and far.

“I read the support page on Facebook the other day and it was very emotional for me,” said Kylie, who particularly loved reading friends’ memories of times they’d spent with her.

“It’s very surreal to feel like you’re kind of hovering over your own funeral,” she said.

Her family members, well-known in the Forest Grove and Gales Creek communities, have received generous deliveries of “Love Rocks,” literal symbols of hope and joy first created by Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson after their daughters, Abigail and Anna, died last year after being hit by a car in Forest Grove.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KATE STRINGER - Kylies parents, Anita and Charlie, have leaned on their Christian faith to see them through their daughters medical crisis. I said to Charlie, Shes gonna be OK either way, Anita said. We gave her back to God.“We’ve been more than Love Rocked,” Kylie said of the gifts. “We’ve been Love Smashed!”

Throughout their recent ordeal, the Marbles, all members of Dilley Bible Church, have clung to a fervent faith.

“God loves Kylie much more than I possibly could,” said Charlie. “And I love her a lot.”

Kylie, who hopes to return to Wheaton College in Illinois, where she is a communications major, believes the events of recent weeks occurred for a reason.

“I feel very confident that it brings the Lord more glory for me to be alive now,” she said.