From life savers to coworkers: Patient joins hospital staff 10 years later

OAK LAWN, Ill. -- Ten years ago, a doctor and nurse worked to save a teenage girl’s life.  Now the girl is all grown up and joining them on hospital staff.

It's been a decade since Michelle Bruno saw Dr. Ted Toerne and nurse Margie Sheerin.  But they certainly left a lasting impression.

“I just remember waking up in the morning and feeling extremely sick,” Michelle said.

Michelle was enrolled at all-girls Mother McCauley High School located near Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.

When Michelle arrived at the hospital, Margie noticed the uniform skirt Michelle was wearing because her daughter attended the same school and then she noticed something else.

“I looked down at her skirt and that's what caught me,” Margie says. “(I saw) the rash on her leg and that's what clued me in. This just wasn't flu like symptoms.

Within moments Dr. Toerne joined the scene.

“I recall her being white as a ghost and she had this blotchy rash,” he said.

Michelle Bruno and Dr. Ted Toerne in 2006 (photo courtesy of Christ Hospital)

Michelle Bruno and Dr. Ted Toerne in 2006.
(photo courtesy of Christ Hospital)

Together they knew Michelle was in bad shape.

“I recall thinking she has this kind of meningitis and I sent the resident off to get a spinal tap kit and by the time he came back I remember realizing she was beyond that sick,” Dr. Toerne said.

It wasn’t meningitis. Michelle had Meningococcemia, a severe bacterial infection of the lining of the brain, spinal cord and blood stream and is often fatal.

“ (We gave her) 9 liters of fluid in the space of 45 minutes,” Dr Ted said. “That's 2.5 gallons of fluid, just to keep her blood pressure at a minimum.

In time, Michelle made a complete recovery.

That life or death episode is what led her into nursing and today she works at the same hospital. Michelle recently started working in Christ Hospital’s adult surgical heart unit, two floors above Margie and Dr. Toerne.