Feb. 23, 2021

The Meningitis Experience

The Meningitis Experience

Fellow survivor, National Meningitis Association Advocate and podcast host, Adam Busuttil, stops by to share his meningitis story and the similarities with John’s story. They also discuss their road back to college and the importance of mental health che...


Fellow survivor, National Meningitis Association Advocate and podcast host, Adam Busuttil, stops by to share his meningitis story and the similarities with John’s story. They also discuss their road back to college and the importance of mental health checks along the way. Adam also discusses his podcast, The Dad Experience.

 

Transcript

John:

Adam, welcome to the Ambiguously Blind Podcast.

Adam Busuttil:

Thanks for having me, John. Really happy to be here. Really excited to talk to you a little bit about some things we have in common and quite a few after we talked on kind of offline here a little bit. So I'm really excited to talk to you.

John:

We do have quite a few things in common. The, the beginning of our things in common as meningitis though, we're both meningitis survivors and I think we got it pretty close to the same age and pretty close to the same time period.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. Yeah. I I contracted meningitis in 1999 in October of 1999. I was19. I was a sophomore at Michigan state university. So I don't know is that you were a year before me, I think maybe is that when we talked about?

John:

Yes, I was February of 1998. I was also a sophomore at Texas Tech University out in Lubbock, which is in west Texas. I am familiar with Michigan State. So we were the same class of in school, but about a year or so apart.

Adam Busuttil:

Yup, yup, yup, yup. Yeah. So I had it in 99 while at Michigan State University. I you know, it was, it was crazy whirlwind. I didn't know much about it. My family knew nothing about it and it kinda took us by storm, you know, so I I'm realistic and really how it happened is, you know, just, just like a lot of stories. You know, we had some of, some of the things that typical signs, but not totally. So like I always start off like the Friday night before I, I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with meningitis. It was, I was in the Michigan State marching band. And when we get together on Friday nights, just cause we get up so early on Saturday morning on game day, morning, it was actually a big day too. It was the Michigan/Michigan State game. And I know you we've talked a little bit about, but the big game, it was a big deal. And I just, you know, so the Friday before I was hanging out with some friends and I felt a little under the weather, so I said, I'm just gonna go home, go to sleep. I'll see everybody in the morning and rehearsal. And I did that and woke up part way through that night in the early, you know, late at night, early that morning and had the chills had a fever. Wasn't feeling good. Took my temperature. I actually called my parents just saying, I'm not feeling good. They're like, well, just say, you know, take it easy. We're coming up the next day. You know? So I did, I took the temperature, went back to sleep, woke up in the morning. Couldn't do any of this stuff for marching band that day. I called in for that stuff and I was terrified because I'm like, man, I'm missing this game. People probably think that I'm like, I don't want them to think that I'm like crazy or was out partying or something the night before and why the morning, that was the thing that was concerning me at that point. And so I missed all those rehearsals and I was hoping that I would make it for the game and step off and all that good stuff to, for pregames and all that good stuff. And so yeah, I got to game time and I still wasn't feeling great. So I just said, listen, I can't be there I go. There's no way I wasn't making it. I was you know sick. At that point, my, my parents were up and my brother was going to school there as well. He was, he's a few years older than me. And then his birthday is actually on October 10th and this is October 9th. So we were going to celebrate his birthday and I said, well, you guys go to the game, I'm going to stay in my dorm. You know, I'll, you know, try and get some better I'll I'll I'll we call it a call and call a nurse line and kind of explain the symptoms. Then the call-in nurse basically said, you're probably dehydrated, have the flu eat something, drink some liquids. Then I did. And I was starting to feel a little bit better. My parents went to the game and I do remember Michigan State winning that game, which was a bummer because I wasn't at the game, but that's all right. I, you know, I was here, right. So I was feeling a little better. So, you know, normally when I, you know, want to refresh myself and kinda get back into the swing of things, I try, I go and take a shower just to kind of maybe give me a second wind. And so I made it to the shower. I was showering and I remember passing out in the shower and then I remembered like toweling off and crawling back to bed and crawling in bed. And my parents came back from the game with my brother and, you know, a couple of years before I was sick, there were a couple of Michigan State students that had been diagnosed with meningitis. And then I think they, unfortunately I think they passed, I'm not a hundred percent sure. So I'm hoping that I'm correct on that. It's been so long now and you know, I don't have the facts in front of me, but I'm pretty sure at least one of them passed. So my brother kind of had an inkling, something was not right. And you remember the story when he was in school before I, you know, before I was even there. Cause we gotta take him to the hospital. I'm like, I'm fine. I'll be all right. I'm good. You know, and I really didn't want to go to the hospital cause I'm a college kid. I was healthy. I was, I was in the marching band. I wasn't, I was working out basically with them every day of the week. Preparing and I was a, it was a drummer. So it wasn't like, I was like bottom end of the athletic ability. I'm not an athlete by any means, but I was in decent shape for, for that time. So my body, you know, it's just so I said, I'll be fine. I didn't want to go to the hospital. It wasn't a big deal. And so they finally got me down there. My, my brother actually did cause it was game day. So they were parked way away. So I brought the car and I remember my mom taking me down and I passed out on her in the high and then in the elevator and I'm, I'm six foot one and she's just not short. She's like five, eight, five, nine, but still, you know, I'm six, one pass out. She basically got me to and they brought the car and went off I'm in the whole time there though that I was kind of in and out of like just not feeling great. They I kept telling him like, God, these people are gonna probably think I'm on drugs or something and I'm just sick. So we get to, you know, my brother got me to the hospital. I don't know how fast he got there, but he got there pretty quick from my recollection. And they got me in and I don't really remember a ton when they brought me into the ER, they got me back right away and they started testing know, I didn't have any of the symptoms that would just say, wow, that's meningitis. They were getting ready to do some more tests, you know, does he have a temperature? I didn't have a temp at that time. You know, what, what, you know, I was really dehydrated. So, and you know, I just don't th th none of the symptoms, I didn't have any bruising, nothing like that. All of a sudden they said, we'll check his temperature again. And all of a sudden, just remember I had a cousin that's was a resident doctor. He came up from Detroit, which don't know how I got there that fast either, but he was there with my doctors and I just remember them saying, you know, he's crashing. And I remember hearing numbers going off when I was, you know, in the ER there. And I remember looking at my cousin and said, I'm not going home today, but you make sure you tell my parents I will be home. And that's really the last I remember from there. I just know that my blood pressure had hit 50 over15. And basically for two or three days, I was in an induced coma, just basically sedated so that I wouldn't mess with any tubes or wires if I came through. But they didn't know at that point for 24, 48 hours if I would have any sort of brain damage or anything like that. So I think about 24 hours after I was sick, I remember kind of coming to, and I had a buddy there that I'm the real good friend of mine who has done a lot for me as far as, you know, getting me back on my feet and making helping me be able to play again as a percussionist. I'm a music teacher by trade. But I remember looking at him and going, man, I'm really sick and I'm in Sparrow Hospital and they can't pronounce my last name. Yeah.

John:

I can relate to that.

Adam Busuttil:

Can't pronounce my last name. I'm in, I'm in the ICU. And I had this thing called meningitis and they were like, you know, they, they, first of all, they're shocked, but you know, on their own mind, they're celebrating a little bit here because they're like, well, we know that there's not a whole lot of, like, if there's any sort of brain damage there he's actually able to retain. And my cognitive cognitive abilities were there. And I had my, you know, I had all, all my receptors there and I was kinda kind of in tune with all that and just remember waking up. And I see my, my hands were bandaged. I was being treated like a burn unit in a burn unit because that's actually where they moved me to when they stepped me out of the ICU, they put me in the burn unit just because of all the different scarring I had and the debridement they've had to do. Um I had some plastic surgery when I was in Lansing to, to fix a lip that was kind of split down. Then they, I was in the hospital for three weeks, between therapies, figuring out what going to do, getting better. And they suggested you, I was going to relate and told me I was going to have to have amputations. And the hospital in Lansing was like, well, we're going to, you know, have to go to this point on his hand, he's going to lose this and that. And I had a percussion teacher that basically said, she said, listen, save anything you can do to save as much of his hands as you can. And we'll work with it. We'll make it work, he'll graduate. And so the occupational therapist over and said, we'll ask the doctor and the surgeon here where they would go if their child was in the situation they did. So they ended up sending us to the there's a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, the Jewish Hospital, where they did actually the firsthand transplant surgery. When that doctor was my doctor, they weren't functioning, but they did a hand transplant and I was successful. And so they, they had me down there for another three. So I was in the hospital and these Lansing for three weeks for recovering from meningitis and just kind of getting that one surgery, taken care of the plastic surgery on my lip and just kind of recovering. So then from there, we went straight down to Louisville. We drove down there and I was in that hospital while I was in their outpatient treatment for two weeks, because, or a week I can remember was a week or two weeks. It might've been two where a week and a half, but I was down there because they had me doing whirlpool therapy. And that was to kinda, you know, regenerate tissue in my hands and stuff. And they actually saved more of my hand than they were thinking about in Lansing. So it was a good thing we went down there. So I was in the hospital and surgeries down there for three weeks. I underwent a six plus hour surgery on just the amputations of I'm missing my big toe, my second toe and part of my fourth and fifth on my left foot. And I'm missing parts of my first finger, my middle finger and my ring finger on my left hand and my all for my, my my hand to just the finger, middle finger pointer, finger, middle finger, ring, finger, and pinky part down all the way down to that second knuckle on my right hand. So I did lose some of that. And I had a lot of scarring and tissue. They actually, at one point thought in Lansing that they were going have to amputate my arm, which I'm lucky that they didn't do that. And I'm very happy they didn't. You know, I know the range of symptoms of meningitis and the effects, the lasting effects that's what people don't totally understand. They're all day where they range so much. And I know we've talked about this off, off the mic a little bit, but, you know, I, you know, just for me, you know, You know, and I, and I don't know how you've taken or others have taken it, but for me, I'm like, man, I'm lucky. I'm a one I'm above ground. I'm not, I didn't, I didn't, you know, unfortunately, or fortunately fall victim to passing away from it. So I was very lucky in that aspect. Right. Absolutely. And then, you know, I look at it and you know, for me, I did, I have to relearn things. Yeah. I had to relearn everyday life. People don't realize that that's, those are the lasting effects. I'll never get my fingers back. I'll never get, I mean, there's prosthetics, but it doesn't do the same thing. You know, for me, it's not the same. And at this point in my life, I've lived longer without, than I have with. But, you know, it's just, there's, there's all these lasting effects you don't realize. And then the trauma on top of that, that you deal with, you know, either with what I put my parents through and my brother through in my, my really good friends and family. So there's a lot of things people don't realize, you think you get sick, it's meningitis, you get, you're recovering it's over. And you know, that's not always the case, obviously a lot of times it results in death or, you know, sometimes it will result in major, you know, long longterm injuries that we sustained from meningitis. So it's kinda my story in a nutshell you know, I'm sure I missed a couple of little details here and there, but you know, that's kinda what I went through. So I really, really, I always like to kind of bring this point home. I was healthy at like six o'clock on a Friday night, nine o'clock. I wasn't feeling so great with my friends. I went home, I had like a cough or a cold, just a stuffy nose. I was rundown. So I need to get sleep. Cause I knew, you know, game day is a huge day. You start at five in the morning. I don't get home. If it's a three 30 game until nine, 10 o'clock or 11, 12 o'clock at night, whatever time, you know, game lasts four hours, if it's nationally televised it's long. So, you know, I would wanted to get some rest and, you know, by so six o'clock on a Friday or nine o'clock on a Friday to six o'clock on a Saturday, I went from a healthy college student that was in decent shape to the college student that contracted meningitis with a blood pressure of 50 over15 and almost basically dead. So I mean, that's what I like to tell people. And you know, I don't like to tell them that, but what I live and what I will always want to get across and share as I went, it was that quick. It was that quick and not having a lot of the symptoms. And, and even with that short of a range, when you see those symptoms, is it maybe too late? You know what I mean? So like, it's, it's such a weird, horrible disease. That's just so hard to pinpoint other than we know that there's vaccination out there and the vaccination is very, very effective with the booster and everything. So I think they're still doing the booster. You might have better information with me with evidence. I think it's still a booster and then the other shot. So, but yeah, there's vaccination out there. That's so, so, so could have saved my life. Definitely.

John:

Just to back up a minute, there's a lot of things to unpack there. So I'm going to ask you some, want to talk a little bit about some of the things you just said, but regarding vaccines. Yeah, the best of my knowledge, there are at least five strands. There's five strains of meningitis, A, C, W, Y and B and the A, C, W and Y are available. Well, actually all of them are, have a vaccine. A, C, W, Y strands are all grouped together in one vaccine, which I think you get around age 11 and then there's a booster available around age 16. And then there's also a meningitis B vaccine that's available around age 16 as well. So,

Adam Busuttil:

Oh, there's three. So the booster is the booster to the meningococcal the vaccine for the A, C, W, Y and then you get a second one at 16 and then B you get at 16. So there's technically three shots to get one a booster and then the B yeah, correct. Got it. So see, I didn't know, a hundred percent anymore. I'm glad you corrected me cause I don't want to give wrong information. Yeah.

John:

Oh wait. No, no, we do not now. Do you know what strand you had?

Adam Busuttil:

Yes, I did. I had w. So I would have been even back then because the B funny enough the NMA has sent me to, to, to, to meet some folks a few years back through one of the vaccination companies, I believe it was Novartis. And they they, I think the B strain and just been approved or been, you know, use for, I don't know if it was in the UK or if it was in the States at that point, I can't remember, but it was really awesome to hear that. And I got to talk to the person that kind of helped design that vaccine, which was super cool to me, which was really neat to talk to, and just, you know, share my story and just appreciate that other folks are able to get this and hopefully be, you know, we can, they can save some lives from it, which I'm sure they already have not, you know, not to hope. I'm pretty sure they already have. So yeah, it was, that was neat. So when I was in school, unfortunately, B was a very common strain and it was prevalent. There wasn't a vaccine for it, but I had w so mine would have been covered had I known about the vaccine.

John:

Yeah, I think I had the, B strand myself. I don't, I'm not a hundred percent certain about that, but from the people I talked to in the records that I have, it looks like it was the B strand. I want to go back a little bit to the Friday and Saturday, so you're okay Friday. You skipped practice. You go to the hospital to the hospital Saturday morning.

Adam Busuttil:

No. So Friday. So here it is on Friday night. It's a little bit, maybe I was a little confused as a Friday night. I was, I was healthy. It was fine. It was hanging out with friends Saturday morning. I missed a rehearsal cause like late Saturday and Friday night, early Saturday morning, I wasn't feeling good. Like I'd like, flu like symptoms. That's really, I guess the only symptom that I really had before I went into the hospital. So Friday I was under the weather early Friday or late Friday night, early Saturday morning. I was flu like symptoms. I missed the rehearsal Saturday morning. I'm starting to feel a little bit better. Did the call a nurse parents were there, you know, for, it was probably, I don't know if it was a noon or a three o'clock game. I can't remember now it's been so long, but they were there for the game. I remember them coming. They went to the game that came back as, and that's when I was six. So I guess like six years, it must've been a noon game. Cause by six o'clock you know, that's when everything started to crash and I was, you know, pretty much on my deathbed,

John:

Your parents, how far away were your parents from? What city is Michigan State in?

Adam Busuttil:

They live, Michigan State's in East Lansing. They live in the Detroit area, the Metro Detroit area in the suburbs of Detroit. And, but they were already there. Like I said, they were there for the game. So they ended up, I was lucky that they were there. They didn't have to come up. So, I mean, they're an hour and a half away, but you know, they, I just was lucky enough that it was on a Saturday and I, and they happened to be there for probably the, one of the biggest games of the year.

John:

Yes, that game was okay, hold on. I just looked up the score. You said 99, right?

Adam Busuttil:

It was 99 and it was a very, it was like a field goal win I think or something like that.

John:

Michigan State beat Michigan 34 to 31 that day.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. It was close game. I know that.

John:

Yeah. Okay. So back to where you are now you are, so you're going to the hospital, your parents are there, your brother's there and you've got a friend that's coming in from Detroit as well. How long were you in the hospital there?

Adam Busuttil:

So, yeah, I was not hospital in East Lansing for three weeks. So I was in ICU for about a week or so this is where it gets a little hazy because I don't, I didn't really investigate this too much after the fact. And then I was in the burn unit, which is honestly, it was basically very similar to the ICU at that point. I mean, because it's such a, you know, every there's like a lint-free area they had to where it was kind of like what you're dealing with now with COVID with masking and being clean and sanitary with everything. Cause it was, you know, it was a burn unit. And then for me having, you know, the disease, you know, they just wanted to make sure I was healthy and didn't get anything else from it to complicate it.

John:

Yeah. And just to re state what you said earlier as you're a perfectly healthy 24 hours later, you're not, or something along those lines, it is extremely fatal. A lot of people do not make it through this. A lot of people are misdiagnosed and don't make it through it. And then there are people like us who I would consider to be extremely blessed and fortunate that are diagnosed at some point correctly and treated correctly at the facilities that we were, we were fortunate enough to be at, but it is very fast and very fatal. And it's, you know, it, the lasting effects from meningitis. I mean, to, to this day, you know, we both, we both, we live with the, the, the remanence of, and the memory. Maybe not think about it all the time, but we're, we're different than we were then. And we can point the meningitis for that.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah, no, absolutely. I've got, you know, every day, you know, I think about it and it's, it's fortunate and unfortunate cause I, you know, I'm really happy to be alive. Would I, would I not want to go through all that again? You know, there's parts of my life that I think it really opened me up to you know, as a person, as a human being. But I mean, there was a lot of pain and suffering, especially for my family. Kind of seeing me go through that, but you know, like you said, it is, it's there all the time. You know, when I'm teaching, I teach by day and that's my trade. I deal with kids talk, I talk to kids about it all the time. They see it all the time, which is a good thing too though, because you know, I teach at the high school level. So a lot of those students are going to go off into college and

John:

They don't go to those things.

Adam Busuttil:

Right. So they don't necessarily know about it. So I mean, yeah, but I live with every day, you know, but it's something that I've gotten used to in, like you said, you know, I'm very blessed and feel very lucky and fortunate to come away with it the way that I did. And you know, it's, it's just, it was a part of what it was. And you know, there are things that, that it didn't make me a better person to you. Don't take, don't take life for granted. I, I became a lot more open and outgoing with folks. So it's, you know, it had its trade-off and I'm not trying to say, let's go out and get meningitis cause that's not what I want

John:

. but yeah, but

Adam Busuttil:

It, but it is, it's always there. It's always fine. You know, as I've gotten older, it's a little bit easier. Just I've lived my life now longer without having parts of my, my fingers in the toes than I did with them. And you know, I I've used prosthetics. I've used them in the past. I have a set that is being made that are awesome. They're going to help me with, with teaching, but my everyday life it's like, this is who I am. I go to Shea, it's weird to me. I, I almost feel more and not embarrassed cause that's not the word I wanna use. I feel more self-conscious when I wear the prosthetic that I have than I would, if I just walked into the gas station to, to, to buy a soda than if I had it on like, just be so it's it's I think the, the older I get, the more it's kinda, it's kinda like grieving, it's grieving, you know, a loss or something. And it's it's you never forget about the memory, but you know, you learn to kind of move on and look at positive sides of it. That's what I try to do.

John:

Yeah, that that's the best way to do it. So the, the biggest takeaway from you physically, what was there a lot of, was there a lot of rehabilitation, physical type or rehabilitation?

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. There was actually, so, you know, when you don't think about it, but you lose fingers. Yeah. I had to learn how to button a shirt, then, you know, put a key in a hole or pick up a penny off of it table or off the ground. That was not an easy one to learn, but you know, you have to do that. So I was in, so as soon as I was out, I was so six weeks hospital, all that time, I was doing PT, OT all the way through. So then I was in pretty much, I want to say it was like three or four days a week. I was in it might've been five days a week that I was in PTO team every day or for five days a week. And we would just, you know, I would learn, it started with walking to, you know, in the hospital to tying shoes, to doing everyday life and learning those skills to then learning how to be a music major.

Adam Busuttil:

So they had me take a year off of school. So I lost a whole year, you know, after talking to my doctor an amazing doctor, there was a fellow with the folks that I had in Louisville that was practicing in Detroit. So it was really nice that I was able to kind of follow up with somebody that had gone through the same or they were, they were a part of that lineage. So so I had lots of PT/OT and then, yeah. You know, I, I was Michigan State made their first bowl game, a decent bowl game in a long time that year. And I still remember telling though the therapist I'm like, man, like, because I got home, like Thanksgiving weekend is when I got home from the hospital in Louisville. And so when I, for my, they removed all the staples and stitches and all that. And I was talking to the therapist, the physical therapist or occupational therapist, I was like, yeah, I really want to go to the bowl game was probably not possible. She's like, no, you gotta be here doing your therapy. Well, I like that's when I lost it. Cause like really part, a big part of me surviving was being in the marching band. They would visit me all the time in the hospital. They, the, the, the band director there at Michigan State would come and visit me every day. He had the students, you know, they can't lead in prayer. So what they did is they sing the Alma Mater every day before rehearsal, I believe it was before. And they would come up to the front of the field and sing, and then they would talk about me everyday. So I mean the power and like that group in that, that, that the, those people was amazing at that. So other than my, you know, that's in my family, the marching band or those friends that I have still to this day really did save my life. And so I really wanted to be a part of that game, kind of looping back to what we're talking about, why I really wanted to go to that that bowl game. And that therapist kind of crushed my dreams and I literally lost it. So I was in tears. I'm sitting there and my doctor who was also a Michigan State grad a very, very fine, fine, man. He looked at what's wrong. We hurting him like, no, I mean, yeah, you're hurting and you're pulling out thousands of staples and stitches, but that's never why I'm upset. And I, you know, I said, I'm not calling. And he looked at me, he goes, who told you that? I, that I didn't want to rat the woman out. I felt really bad. And he looked at, he knew who it was. He looked and said, no, he'll be going. And we're going to make sure he goes, and we're not going to stop him from doing anything. So I was home from the hospital. Thanksgiving was probably later in the year that year. Cause I remember three weeks later, I was on an airplane going down to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl. And I marched and played in quite a few parades. I participated in the halftime show. So, you know, I, I, I have to say, like I said, I was lucky. I was in really good shape that marching band in more ways than one, you know, through the, through the power of my friends, in that group. And just to support to to just being in shape. I mean, you don't think of band students being in shape unless you are a band student yourself or your band parent or your band director, whatever you've never been involved in. You don't think that band is that physical or marching band. And it is, especially when you get to the collegial level. I mean, it is, it really is the moving you do, could I compete with the football players? Absolutely not. But thank God I was in that could of shaped from, from that program.

John:

So you're playing percussion, right? So what is percussion like when you're not fully equipped with all the fingers that you're used to?

Adam Busuttil:

A lot of thinking outside of the box and being creative. First of all, thank God, it wasn't, again, I, wasn't a creative, a creative discipline that you can kind of, you know, work, work with. Well, if it's, if it doesn't look right, does that mean it's wrong? You know what I mean? Kind of thinking critically about things. So looking at different angles of how we can. So we did back then find a prosthetic company that was more cosmetic, but they took a liking to me. So I had that friend I was telling you about, who's an amazing musician and performer. He performs out in TC. Now he's one, one of the big, the big groups that do all the presentations he's in the military band does all the presidential stuff, but he modeled his hand so that they could create curvature for playing four mallets. I did have enough. So four mallets means two mallets in each hand, I did have enough length in my hands to be able to play. Like drum set, things like that. I played in the basketball band. I played, you know, and did all the concert band stuff. The things that were really a little more difficult to do were the ability to teach all the instruments. So like on clarinet, you have to cover holes. Well, I can't cover holes and I have different lengths of my hands. You know, to hold a flute is not easy. Brass instruments aren't so bad for me to play, but ones that have led a lot, a lot of keys, like saxophone to get my hands around it or to cover holes or forget oboe and bassoon with all the half fingerings and stuff you have to do on those instruments. So I was, I mean, those things I had to learn, how to, how can I demonstrate to kids or to students in a way that they will understand, but I cannot physically show them. And so it's been a lot of thinking outside the box. The one thing that sticks with me and I'll never forget is my percussion professor said, you know, it doesn't matter what you look like. It's, you know, if you, when they do auditions or whatever, if I were to go on and play, they're always blind anyways. You go in behind where the, what I mean by blind auditions, as they go behind a curtain and the people in the audience, they don't, they don't know who you are, how you're playing. So if you get a sound that sounds beautiful. It's going to sound beautiful, no matter how you do it. So she don't ever get caught up in the minutia of does this look right? Or it doesn't look like you could take a picture of it and put it in a textbook. So, yeah, I, you know, th those are the things that kind of stuck with me. So trying to just think outside of the box, but again, it was a long road. I wasn't at back to where I was my freshman year. When I walked through those doors at Michigan state, I wasn't there until at least a year and a half to two years later, I wasn't back to that. So it took me two years just to get to the physical skill sets I had, you know, the, obviously the musical that's stuff, I could keep learning the stuff that's cognitive, you can learn, but those physical things, I wasn't even back in shape to like, this is where I'm at, so I can get out and perform till at least two years later, I think a year and a half, two years later. So it was a long road it's still to this day, like I said, I'm still trying to figure out how can I demonstrate clarinet better? How can I demonstrate flute better? And then it's all because they don't have fingers. So, you know, or I don't, I've, I've lacked not a total gone, but parts of the fingers, the ones that, the fingertips that are important that I need to cover holes or do whatever I would need to do.

John:

Okay. So let's go back a little bit further now, again, and you talked about the rehabilitation in the hospital, you mentioned walking again, and just very basic human functions was that cause I've experienced that myself with, with just, okay, we're going to walk or we're going to sit up in bed after being in bed for a week or however many, however many it was. So was how did you make it through those basic skills being relearned without being just without totally losing your mind

Adam Busuttil:

Support. I'm telling ya. I, knowing that I had that, you know, what it was, I honestly, it was that band. It really was not only the support, but knowing that I wasn't going to give up playing in the Michigan State marching band and drum line because I was sick. I was going to figure out a way to do it. And that's kinda what my motivation, that and my family they're with me a hundred percent all the way. And you know, my parents, my brother, my cousins, I had, I had family from Europe. My dad was born in Malta, which is a little country on a tiny country, South of Sicily. And, and they sent two of my uncles when I woke up two of my uncles were there. And they were ready to send more so that support. I had a support system and I'm very lucky and I just wanted to do it because I still had things left to do. I still wanted to be a musician. I still wanted to perform. I still wanted to be a college student. I still wanted to be in that marching band. And those were my driving factors, you know, and, and in, in having those, those educators around me, those teachers, those professors, those band directors, those, you know, administrators, they, they having them in my corner and then being creative and working with me, you know, I can, I can say without a doubt that, you know, I sure if I went anywhere else would have been fine, but the folks in Michigan's did I only one time where I had an issue with somebody where they said, well, there's this something you really can do. And, and, you know, it was the only time they, everybody, there was a hundred percent encouraging still to this day, you know, there's, there's, there's folks that I'll never, I can't thank enough and I don't know how to repay them because I'm, I'm here standing and able to still do what I love.

John:

Yeah, I can relate to that too. The support system for me was, was tremendous. And I think that that kind of is a common thread that runs through people that survive any traumatic experience. And in particular, as I talked to meningitis survivors seems to be the case as well, a lot of family and a lot of support. It seems like I was at, I was at college as well, so I can totally relate to the administrative element of that and the professors and teachers and things like that too. So it's really something that it seems like it's, you know, let's, we're going to walk five steps today and we're going to walk 10 steps tomorrow and it's, it's so basic that it's just, it, it really boggles your mind to think that, okay, I'm, I'm 19, I'm 18 years old. And I'm learning how to walk like a child that might be 10 months old or 18 months older, you know, something like that. So it's just really crazy. And my family and my faith and my friends were extremely important to me during that. And that's mostly what brought me through that. So let's walk a little forward to let's let's move forward at Michigan State. What was your path through Michigan State? Did you graduate?

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. Yeah. I graduated with the music education degree. I by, it took me a little longer, you know, part of that way too.

John:

I was on the five-year plan. That's okay.

Adam Busuttil:

My program, although my, sorry, my program was, was is already a five-year program. So because you have student teaching built into that and all that good stuff, but yeah, I went, should I say it out loud and then wonder that some of my students may hear this someday.

John:

You incriminate yourself if you want. Do whatever you can.

Adam Busuttil:

I went, I went over five years. How about that? I went over a lot. Which part of that was, Hey, I wasn't a great student when I was a freshman and my students know about this. I was not a good student my freshman year and there's some things I wish I would've done different. But you know, I was college kid and I was young and didn't, wasn't smart about you know, not, not, not anything horrible just about making sure I go to class. Cause you know, the professors don't always check up on that, like they do in high school. Right? So so those things type of things got in the way, just silly college, normal pitfalls. But so yeah, it took me a little longer. And then on top of that being sick and having to like kind of get back to, you know, you know, my freshman year really was, was where I, where I left off my freshman year kind of is where I was technically supposed to be my junior year. So yeah, it took a long time and you know, and then, and just wanting to be a college student and wanting to enjoy life. When you go through a traumatic experience like this, at least my experience was, I'm not going to let anything go anymore. I'm going to, if somebody says we're going to go to a concert and, but it's in, you know, Chicago and we have to be back for class on Monday, I'm going to go. Or if it's, you know, I get to study abroad or I get to play in this group somewhere, I get to travel and do the basketball band, which took away from some other classes that I needed to get done right at that time I did. And, and I experienced that. So it did take me a little longer, but a lot of it towards the end or after I was sick was just mainly due to just wanting to be, to, to still enjoy those parts of my life. You know?

John:

Yeah. Those are important. What about socially? Was it hard when, once you get back to campus and back to life in air quotes, normal was it tough to get connected back into the social situation at school?

Adam Busuttil:

You know, there was no Facebook, there was none of that stuff, but we didn't have AOL and AOL instant messenger and all those good things. So I did stay in touch with everybody all through the time I had that band and that band did not leave me or, you know, give up on me and my best friends were my best friends. I still am. I was more outgoing afterwards. It opened me up more. The hard part, there was a couple of tough parts with, with being back in schools, one being the student that caused a mass campus to mass vaccinate. It was weird. I can call you. You were that guy. Yeah. Well that's what happens. Well, you were that guy and you know, years I'm talking years later, somebody told my stars with some friends in where I'm currently at. I was already teaching and somebody, that group called me the outbreak monkey, which really made me mad because I thought that was really bogus. That was the only time I've ever gotten mad. But like, you know, those were the things that bothered me. It never really bothered me that I was sick. It bothered me when I would hear that students when they were, if they were in the marching band or were in the marching band jacket, other folks would walk on the other kind of like what we're dealing with with COVID right now, you're in somebody cough, like run to the other wall, you know? It's, it's, it's, you know, they would walk on the other side of the street and that stuff bugged me because I felt like I caused that. And it wasn't anything, you know, you could say anything about me. The one thing really bothered me, but just to, to, to say, to hurt other people, just because it's somebody got sick is terrible. So those were the kinds of things that bugged me the most. But other than that, you know, I was very, I was well liked and accepted and that group was so great to me. Lots of friends for them still to this day. So my social aspect wasn't so bad. I did also end up doing some other things during that time in college, after I was sick, it kind of blew up in the news. For some reason, me being sick really blew up in the news, at least up in our area. And so I was always getting calls to do things for, for advocacy, whether it's news, people that wanted to just hear my story. I, I did, I was closed off for a little bit on that stuff, but then I started to open up and do speak a little more things. I was invited to some classes at state to Michigan State to speak to some of the local news. And then through the marching band directors, somehow they got a hold of him, Nova reached out and said, we're doing this, this documentary called killer disease on campus. And would I be interested? And he said, listen, I've been filtering out a lot of garbage that people want to talk to you, but this one seems legit. And it was so I did a, it was a big part of the killer disease on campus documentary through the Nova series. It's I don't think it's on streaming or anything like that now. I've looked a few times. It's not, but I think you can still maybe get a DVD or I have the VHS. So that's how old it is. So, but it, but it is great. You know, obviously it's some of the the vaccination plan and things like that since there have been more boosters and the B strain is now has a vaccine, obviously that's outdated, but it's out there. So I've done some of that stuff and advocacy, I spoke at a state level for, for vaccination requirements, things like that. So, you know, and I had support those guys were great. I was in a group that was amazing. And, and, you know, that's one thing about the arts and music and band, and I'm sure in the sport, I'm not a sport I'm not athletic other than watching Michigan State stuff. You know, that's, that's a part of being in the group, so I never had a hard time. And that was what was great about or, how I, why I was lucky that I had that group, because I didn't, I think if it would have been, if I would have been a student that wasn't really involved, I did my classes every day was a normal everyday student. Wasn't in the marching band. I think it would've been a lot more difficult for me and I might've become more closed off when I did the opposite.

John:

Were there any other things that were different about you post meningitis than they were pre meningitis other than the fingers and the toes? Were there any other nerve damage, any other bodily functions, any other, you know, things that didn't return somewhat soon after your therapies and things happened?

Adam Busuttil:

No, you know, I, I was lucky again, I just did the finger and toes. I had a lot of skin grafts and scarring. I still have lots of scarring all over my arm and body. But most of that is, you know, I didn't have any, any sort of brain damage or any sort of cognitive issues. You know, I didn't have lingering issues other than the amputations obviously and the scarring. So, no, I do think though that part of the onset, I don't want to say I wasn't in a depressed state, but I think that my mental health could have been better. I think it affected my mental health a lot going from this, you know, I was sick. I was really, it was a focal point for a long time and, you know, I just, I didn't take care of myself like I should have totally during that time. And I like kind of let mental health get in the way and, and gain a lot of weight. So I got myself into a place that wasn't great. And I think it was to do with just depression and not knowing that the depression was there. Because on the outside I was able to put up a good front, you know? So I think that was a lingering. I think it, I think it does have last whether or not we, we, you know, we try and mask it or whatever. And I was like, would I change things? No, but do I think there were some issues that I probably should have sought out and, and thought about and got a little help with? Yeah. I think that, you know, I had right away after I was sick, there was a part of the treatment plan was, was therapy because you're going from something you're used to, to losing things. Um and I think I wish I would have continued that more and you know, that's something I always encourage people is just taking care of their mental health and being aware of their mental health because, you know, mine was meningitis, but you know, anybody, everybody has anything, everything is big in their world. And anything that happens to anybody is a big deal. Whether or not we think it's a big deal, it's always a big deal to that person. So being checking in with your mental health, and that's one thing that I don't think I did a very good job of after I was sick.

John:

Yeah. I don't think I did either actually. And that certainly is something that it comes along for the ride with any kind of change in your life, a dramatic change for sure, but really any kind of change. And I think I certainly struggled with extreme anxiety or at least in my mind it was extreme. And for my experience.

Adam Busuttil:

No, take it, man. It is it's you, you, you're the one that it's you. I would, it was extreme. It is big. It's for you. We all, we all, we all relate to things differently. You know, when I think it's parenting now that has gotten me into this mindset. It's like, you know, my, my friend's kid, he may have this horrible temperature and fever and it's a huge deal, but on, you know, someone else's end, they may be, their kid may be going through surgery. And it's a huge deal on both just as equally important and things that you, that you embrace. So I try and stray away from that myself. I try and think that everybody's got a, bit's a big deal and it should be a big deal to that person. So yeah, man, it is a big deal.

John:

There's just so many things that you're trying to process at really any age, but for us in our, in our late teens, all the changes that you're going through with just physically anyway, any teenager and then being in school and on your own and trying to start your life and do all the things you're supposed to do to get through school and do all that type of stuff and be social. And then you throw this, this curve ball in there that, you know, everybody experiences a curve ball at some point in life, but at this particular time in life, I think you and I are a bit unique because that's when our curve ball was thrown at us. You know, there's a lot of mental things that I wasn't checking on. I wasn't aware of. I certainly felt different and certainly thought different, but I think I put on a, like you said, a good face and tried to just power through those things. And there certainly were some times where I think some mental health checks and some other things would have, would have, would have helped me for sure. And I think too, you know, I asked just kind of socially, cause it, it was difficult for me to re-engage socially. It wasn't extremely difficult, but it was everybody that I was close with obviously was very familiar with my situation. Everybody was very helpful. Everybody was very accommodating and all those types of things, but then it's, sometimes it gets to a point where it's like too much accommodation where you're just like, you know, I'm still, I'm still the guy you remember I'm different, but you know, there's the core is still the same. So let's keep doing these things and then you kind of get in a, in a, in a rhythm. And it, it was tough for me to find a rhythm and to find the right, really the right people. Again, not that I was with the wrong people, but it just, all of a sudden for me, like I didn't have any friends that were blind before, before I had meningitis. So the, I suspect you didn't have a lot of friends that, that were missing fingers and toes. So finding somebody to relate to that type of things on a real friend basis, like, Oh yeah, I've been through that. I know these kinds of things. It wasn't easy. And to, to try to act like I'm normal or be like I'm normal, again, it took a lot of energy and it took a lot of just, I don't know, it took a lot of, it just took a lot to, to do the things that I was used to doing. So I had to change some things, which is fine, and that's just how it works, but not everybody was receptive to that. Because as I'm saying, I'm, I'm still the same old guy, but I do have some differences. And some people are like, well, this is the same old guy. So it's the, it's the same old, it's the same old John. And it just wasn't the case. And so for, for me, the vision loss was, was really the primary thing that people would know about for me, but something that was kind of secondary to that, and almost equally as difficult to get through or as challenging was I have currently. And since the inception of meningitis have had, what's called a neurogenic bladder, which means boil it down to the most easiest way to describe it is that I use a catheter for urination. And I didn't know anybody that used a catheter for urination in college either. And you know, I was, I wasn't a party animal, but I certainly was the guy that went out and hung out with friends and we went places and we did things. And all of a sudden, I am extremely interested in what the bathroom situation is about, where we're going almost maniacal, like, okay, where are we going? I'm trying to plan things. And usually you just kind of go with the flow. You're a 19, 20 year old kid. You just go with the flow, no big deal. But all of a sudden I've got to be very concerned with where I'm going to go to the bathroom, you know, and I didn't have any friends that were using catheters at the time either. So, you know, adjusting to those types of changes. It just takes a lot. It just takes a lot out of you and it creates a lot of stress and things that I wasn't used to. And I think kind of, as you were mentioning about the mental health thing, I think, I think really there were some good opportunities for me to have some mental health checks and just reassess some things. And, and there probably were some things that I should have changed, but I didn't, and I don't know if I looking back really would have again, but it's just, it just, it is what it is and it was what it was. And, and I powered through those things and it's just the way life goes.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah, I mean, you're looking at 20 to 22 years, 21 years ago. And there weren't many places where you'd hear even men talk about mental health period. So like for us to get mental health checks or say we needed it, wasn't a thing, you know, my parents and family a hundred percent would support it, but it was, no, it was a stigma. You know what I mean? Almost to me, I'm looking back and now it's like, now I'm going to tell people, you know, I want people to know all that, you know, I needed to check in on my mental health because the depression is huge and, and things that, you know, a lot of our control, like we were saying earlier, people go through things, no matter how big or how small it can trigger anything. And it's just so important for everybody to check in on her mental health. And I think, but that was really, really huge for me. I think going through is just looking back on, man, I mentally, mentally was not healthy. I was not taking care of myself. Not that I was doing it, putting myself in any danger, but like, there's definitely things that I look back and go, well, I probably should have thought about a couple of those things before I got to a point, you know, from point A to point B. But you know, that's just part of it, but I think that it's huge, like you said, I think, and I'm glad we're discussing it cause I don't get to discuss that much with folks. So I'm glad that we've talked about it. So folks, you know, maybe there, maybe there's folks out there too that, that maybe need to check in on mental health too sometimes and knowing that others do then it's, you know, it's, it's good.

John:

Yeah. Especially in the COVID world we're living in and, and everybody locked down and just all the craziness that's going on politically and, and medically and just, it's just it is a wild, it's a wild time.

Adam Busuttil:

Well, and as we're sitting here talking, I'm thinking to myself, going man, a lot of the stuff that they had to do and I was sick or things we're doing just every day, you know, we're getting my, you know, my daughter's the, you know, they, they put a mask on before they go in somewhere where before when we leave or, you know, we don't really go in anywhere. But when we go with my daughter has a doctor's appointment, you know, they're getting masked up, they're using hand sanitizer, all those things. They were so meticulous about when I was sick, I was like, wow, it's like crazy. And just talking about, I was like, well, that's kind of what we're doing now.

John:

Now, now it's the norm. Now it's how we live. And I have young children also. And they, this is what they'll know, this is how they will know the world. So that kind of leads me into another topic of the dad experience. You're a podcaster yourself. You're a professional.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. Unfortunately though, COVID and some things with family that we're kind of just, we're just so busy right now. It's kinda been on hold, but I have about 150, 130 ish somewhere in there. I don't have to go back and look at the catalog episodes out called from my podcast, called The Dad Experience basically. And it's still there. I am in, shut it down. I haven't said it's done. I just am on hiatus. So we're, we're on all the, the, the major platforms you can get us at Apple podcast, you know, Google, wherever, just look for us to search the data experience. I'm sure you can find us on most platforms, but but I started to because my wife and I struggled to have our first child. We, we are IVF family. He, my, my oldest daughter, my second daughter was, was not an IVF child, but my, my, my oldest was so we dealt with that for years, just even trying to conceive, seeing our friends and family around us, kind of go through all that. And we were just like, man, this is horrible. And that was, it was a big deal to us. And every time somebody would, you know, announce it was, it was, we were so happy for them. It was hard for us to get happy because we were struggling. So we ended up having my oldest daughter and then at the five months scan, I can't remember what scan was, my wife's going to kill me cause I probably should remember that. But we found out that she had congenital heart defect. She had a complete AVSD, so we knew that, you know, we had to monitor and make sure she was fine, but we knew that she was going to be able to be born and not have to have like surgery right away. And they were going to prolong and we thought it was going to be about three months. And then the PN about six, I want to say she was born on October. And then we, we had to take her in, in June. We thought we were going to take her in January, February. So they had to reconstruct basically they had to re build the four chambers and kind of reform those walls when she was six months old. So we dealt with that and that's kinda when I started it. So kind of like we are now, we were quarantined another relation. We recording team basically from when she was born in October to when she had surgery in June in June, because we did not want her to get a cold, but did not want her to get sick. Cause if they did it, might've had to bump the surgery up or they might have to do something or who knows, what effects it would have had. So we were stuck. Can I said, well, what am I going to do? I got this time at home. Not that I wasn't busy cause I was busy with a newborn, but you know, you need to, you need dad time alone time. So I said, well, I'm always been into podcasting or been into media and sharing news media things like that. I played in bands before. So I'm always into like just opening up and being a part of society. And I said, well, what can I do? Let's start a podcast. I thought the platform was pretty neat. And I wanted to do something that took a page out of my education educator background, which was don't reinvent the wheel. If it's there borrow, share from each other, help each other out. So I said, well, there's tons of dads that I know that are out there. I said, why not start with my story? And then bring on a dad or two every week or every week. Right. Then it was like bi-monthly than I went to weekly. Bring them on and talk about being a dad. And it didn't matter. It was all walks of life. I had grandfathers on, I had stepdads on, I had same-sex marriage parents on partners. I've had all of the above, you know, I have my buddy on from Chicago and then I've had Howie Dorough on from the Backstreet boys. So, you know, I, nobody, I want to hear from everybody. I want to learn from everybody cause I can learn from everybody. And it was kind of for me and did the podcast for me. Cause I wanted to all the books I was reading were all calm, comedic books for dads, usually not all, but a lot of them were in the things like mental health aren't discussed and sharing emotions and being able to know that it's okay to cry and things like that. So I wanted to talk to other dads and say, what is it really? And are there some out there that you don't believe on those other sides? Yeah, but that was the why I created The Dad Experience. Cause I wanted to learn and I wanted others to listen in and hopefully it takes something away to and in the process, bring on more people that are listeners just so we can kind of create this community and this show. And I did it when it relates, it has run for about 150 ish episodes. I want to say it's probably a little bit under that, but I'm kind of guessing. I can't remember. And we, you know, and just like I said, I have dads on from all walks of life. Doesn't matter if you're rich and famous or if you are a single dad or a single parent or any of the above, if I've had moms on, I've had educators on, I've had lawyers on I've had musicians on. So it's kind of what I did and I've learned so much from it. And it was, it was a way for me to get away from the, what I like to call the beard air drinking and barbecuing dad's stuff to like kind of what is really being a dad and emotionally. And then what do you, do? You know, what if you're a stay at home dad or what if you're a single dad? So I just wanted to learn and what are the new, what can we relate to and what can we take away? It's not a serialized podcast, so you can pick and choose what you want to listen to if you relate to something more than others. So it's been fun doing it. Right now, like I said, it's on hiatus, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it. And maybe this is what I needed to do this with you, John, because hopefully, maybe we, the next one, maybe we'll start to we'll we'll do one and have you on The Dad Experience.

John:

Hey, I'd love to do that. That's great. Yeah.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah. That's, that's kind of an an and it's just being a dad has been the greatest thing, you know you know, I thought being sick and surviving was going to be the single most important thing that I remembered. I think both my child's, you know, my kid's births were definitely outweigh those things and being a dad has been pretty awesome and I have a great wife that's so supportive and is a great mom who I learned tons from who really, really is what keeps our family together and the glue together. So I learned a lot from her and have read a lot of the different things that she's read and given to me because she's just awesome.

John:

Yeah. I, I can relate. I, the the mom in our world is what holds the, is the glue that holds this, this unit together too. And I I thought that things that I had done previously might might, you know, like surviving meningitis or graduating high school, you know, might've been my greatest accomplishments, but it turns out it's not. But, but the, the dad thing is a, it's a work in progress and it's something that always needs honing. And I am I am by no means by no means an expert. I always joke with my wife when we were when we were pregnant with our, with our first one, we had a really bad winter storm. And we went to these classes at the hospital about parenting classes, you know, like there was like four or five of them that were available and we went to all of them, but our first child was born about three weeks early. And the baby care basics class was scheduled after she was born. But before we, before she was scheduled to be born, so every time something, my wife looks at me and says like, what do you mean you don't know how to do that? I'm like, Hey, I missed baby care basics. You know, I, I don't know these things. So it really still work though. It does. Well, no it doesn't, but I use it that's exactly. But you know, the mom mom's got these there, they have all this built in knowledge. They just know, they just know. And you know, I really needed the classes now, did baby care basics make it a break it for me? No, but that's what I say, you know?

Adam Busuttil:

Right. No. And I think you're right though. I think there's moms intuitively know this stuff, but I'm, I don't mind, you know, I don't make excuses that I know. I think a lot of it too has, they're just, women are more in tune with, with checking in and making sure things are okay. Whereas I don't think guys are as much. And I think that's something, hopefully we will change in the future.

John:

Got you guys are not good at that.

Adam Busuttil:

Right. Or wrong and not good about talking about our emotions and not being, I think that's huge with, with children, with babies period. I don't care if they're a boy, girl, whatever that, that age, that's what they need. They don't, they, they need to see mommy or daddy has a soft side and excited side a happy side and say, so those are the things they relate to. You know, and, and I think that we don't do that well, but I think moms and women do that lot better than we do. And we can learn a lot from it.

John:

Yeah. God bless moms. That's for sure. That's how I'll leave it today. So yeah. Adam great visiting with you. Yeah.

Adam Busuttil:

It was nice visiting with you. I really appreciate you having me on, I, I love what the stuff you're doing and I love that you are talking to the meningitis survivors and sharing your story because it, it, isn't easy to share our stories all the time. And thank you for giving me the opportunity and thank you for sharing yours. And hopefully, you know, you reach more people that will learn about meningitis or be able to relate and get some sort of comfort in that. So thank you for sharing your story as well.

John:

Hey you're welcome Adam. And look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Adam Busuttil:

Yeah, for sure.

Adam Busuttil

Meningitis Survivor, Advocate