Rayna DuBose came to say thank you.
And thank you and thank you and thank you.
“OMRF, the scientists and doctors—it’s good to meet the people who helped save me,” she said. “I just wanted to say thank you. I can’t say it enough.”
DuBose, a 24-year-old Virginian, spoke Tuesday to more than 100 Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation employees about how a drug pioneered at OMRF saved her life. “It’s a miracle that I’m here today,” she said.
In the spring of 2002, then a member of the Virginia Tech University women’s basketball team, DuBose came down with what she thought was a cold. An advisor found her passed out on the floor and she was immediately taken to a hospital, where doctors initially diagnosed her with dehydration and released her.
Less than 24 hours later, she was back in the hospital, and doctors soon discovered that she was suffering from bacterial meningitis. The bacterial infection led to sepsis, a deadly blood infection, and a month-long coma for DuBose. The prognosis was grim; sepsis kills about 250,000 Americans each year, and is the leading killer in the country’s intensive care units.
“They tried everything,” she said. Yet the standard courses of treatment—respirators, fluids, antibiotics—all failed. “Pretty much, I was dead. Then they gave me Xigris, and I came back to life.”
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration just months before, Xigris is a synthetic version of a human protein. The drug has its roots in discoveries made by OMRF scientists Charles Esmon, Ph.D., and Fletcher Taylor, M.D.
The drug saved DuBose’s life, but prolonged loss of circulation forced the amputation of DuBose’s hands and feet. “My lowest point was when my doctors, parents and friends told me they’d have to amputate,” she said. “I cried for five minutes, then I sucked it up and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
DuBose attacked her rehabilitation with the fiery determination of an athlete, and most who meet her can’t tell she’s walking on prosthetic legs. Little more than a year after the surgery, she returned to Virginia Tech. And this past summer, she earned her degree.
OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., said that DuBose’s visit served as an important reminder to everyone at OMRF. “Sometimes, in day-to-day life, it can seem like all we’re doing is pushing papers from one side of a desk to the other,” he said. “But this organization has a mission and Rayna is the living embodiment of that mission. She is why we do what we do.”
DuBose said that, despite the loss of her limbs, she wouldn’t change anything about her life. “This experience helped me find myself,” said DuBose, who has begun a career as a motivational speaker. “I want to inspire people and motivate them. If my story can do that, I’m happy.”
The visit was the first meeting for DuBose and Esmon, who holds the Lloyd Noble Chair in Cardiovascular Biology at OMRF. When DuBose thanked the OMRF scientist for saving her life, Esmon smiled. “When Fletch and I started working on this project, our fondest hope was that it might actually help people. It’s gratifying to see that hope come to fruition in someone special like Rayna. Her spirit is contagious.”
High-resolution photos of DuBose is available for download at www.omrf.org/newsgallery/rayna.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute that focuses its research on cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, lupus and cancer.