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She's a fighter, buoyed by music and prayer


Kylie Marble is back home and healing after bout with flesh-eating bacteria

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Kylie Marble, 21, smiles in the living room of her Forest Grove home as she talks about her discharge from Oregon Health & Science University after conquering a flesh-eating bacterial infection.These are people that you know / These are people that you love / Maybe I’m alive so I can know / These people that you love.

Kylie Marble and a friend wrote those song lyrics in Cannon Beach last year. At the time, she couldn’t have known how prophetic they’d turn out to be.

Yet after spending 49 days in two hospitals this summer, surrounded by prayers and visits from relatives and friends as she fought off the effects of clostridium perfringens — the flesh-eating bacterium that nearly took her life — the 2010 Forest Grove High School graduate has seen the connection.

“I’m trying to look at what’s been given instead of what’s been taken away,” Kylie said from her living room Monday, sitting beside her mom, Anita, and her dad, Charlie, with her elastic-bandaged leg propped up on an ottoman. “I think God knew in his infinite wisdom this experience was something that could be allowed.

“I think it will shape me in ways I can’t even imagine.”

For Kylie, a college student and singer-songwriter whose debut indie and folk album, “People Are People,” was released Feb. 4, the ordeal will likely affect her music, which she sees as a platform to share hope with people.

“I love songwriting ... it’s something I’ve always felt called to,” said the 21-year-old, who has so far endured seven surgeries, a major skin graft and hit-and-miss efforts at pain management. She was discharged from Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University Aug. 3.

Miraculous awakening

Kylie’s medical crisis started June 15, when she fell from her bike and split her knee open during a ride along the Banks-Vernonia Trail.

A potentially deadly infection began to spread, destroying healthy tissue from Kylie’s right foot up to her hip. “We knew it was possible we could lose her,” Anita Marble said at the time.

Multiple debridements — the surgical removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue — finally arrested the bacterium’s march. Charlie and Anita regard the day Kylie woke up as a miracle contained in music.

“I played Kylie’s album when she was still in the intensive-care unit” at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro, where she was first admitted, Charlie said. “I shed many tears as I listened to the sincerity of her music, longing to see her conscious again.”

Transferred to OHSU in late June, Kylie spent another six weeks under constant watch by specialists. On July 24, doctors performed the first of several operations designed to rebuild Kylie’s leg, harvesting a thin layer of skin from her left thigh and grafting it onto her right upper leg. They will need to re-graft a section in her hip area that was difficult to maneuver.

Specialized material made of bovine protein and shark cartilage, into which blood vessels can grow, will insulate the exposed tendons on Kylie’s lower leg from another skin graft in the weeks to come. Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Recalling the ups and downs of life in the hospital, Kylie Marble talks with her parents, Charlie and Anita, at home in Forest Grove. An operation to harvest skin from Kylies unwrapped leg for grafting onto her damaged leg caused the redness shown in the photo.

Despite her physical agony and occasional emotional dips, Kylie is working to maintain her signature sunny attitude.

“What’s cool is to see the progress between wound-dressing changes,” which happen every two days, she said. “The skin is starting to look pink, not red.”

Her father and brothers have taken on most of the responsibility for changing her bandages — a task that takes 45 minutes. Anita is starting to help more, too.

“It’s still very difficult for me to see her in pain,” said Anita, adding that support from the Forest Grove and Dilley communities has been overwhelming.

Charlie concurred. “It’s hard to say ‘thank you.’ So much has been given to us; so many people and so many churches have prayed for us. At face value this is a terrible tragedy, but we’ve seen a lot of good come from this, and that’s been a tremendous comfort.”

Comforting others

Kylie’s first outing after returning to Forest Grove was to Scottie’s Drive-In for ice cream.

Her days are mostly spent resting, reading and attending physical therapy sessions, where she’s trying to improve her ability to bend her knee.

Doctors are optimistic she’ll eventually be able to walk again. And by January, Kylie hopes to return to Wheaton College in Illinois for spring semester. It’ll be hard to be away from campus this fall, but Kylie, a communications major, knows the delay is for the best.

“I didn’t want to go back and be a burden to people — I still need a lot of help,” said Kylie, who uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s glad her boyfriend, Wheaton student and Wisconsin native Daniel Cerrato, was able to visit her in Oregon recently, and she plans to keep in touch with friends via phone and social media.

As she continues along her path to healing, Kylie says she’ll remember to do things she loves each day: strum her ukulele, dream up new song lyrics and melodies and trust in a higher power to lead her forward.

“There’s joy in all of this,” she said. “I realize how fragile life is. I have more empathy for others.”