College Volleyball Player with 'Aggressive Bacterial Infection' Fights for Her Life in ICU

·3 min read
Monika Simkova
Monika Simkova

University at Buffalo Bulls Athletics Monika Simkova

University of Buffalo volleyball player Monika Simkova is continuing to fight on her road to recovery from a streptococcal bacterial infection.

An international student-athlete from Slovakia, Simkova was gearing up to start her third season with the team when she began experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms in August, according to The Buffalo News. When her condition worsened, coach Scott Smith helped get her to the hospital, where her health continued to deteriorate.

"Monika was admitted to the ICU at the beginning of August with an aggressive bacterial infection," her sister Lucia Michalovicova, who is acting as Simkova's primary caregiver, wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to cover mounting medical expenses.

After being admitted to the ICU, the athlete's "condition rapidly deteriorated as she turned septic, resulting in multi-organ failure," her sister wrote. Then Simkova underwent a double amputation above her knees in order to give her "the best chance at survival."

Monika Simkova
Monika Simkova

Gofundme Monika Simkova

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"The doctors kept explaining how rare this kind of reaction is. It's less than 1% of the human population that responds this way," coach Smith told The Buffalo News. "There was no way to see this coming, but the fact that we got her to the emergency room as quickly as we did, that gave her a fighting chance."

There are several categories of streptococcal infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Group B streptococcal bacteria most commonly cause illnesses in newborns and are found in gastrointestinal and genital tracts, Group A streptococcal bacteria "can cause many different infections," ranging from "minor illnesses to very serious and deadly diseases," including streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, per the CDC.

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Currently on her fifth week of hospitalization, Simkova faces a number of health complications.

"Rehabilitation is the next step but before then she needs to recover from the illness," her sister wrote on the GoFundMe page. "She continues to fight a bacterial infection in her blood, a fungus in her leg wound, and pneumonia in her lungs. Unable to eat on her own, she's still using a feeding tube down her nose to the stomach."

However, Michalovicova says her sister is "continuing to improve each and every day."

"For these five weeks, she has been fighting unbelievably hard to stay here with us. She has been through so much, too much for one person to endure in life. But she is a fighter," Michalovicova wrote. "Her body may be weak and fragile but her mind and motivation to live is made of steel."

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Simkova's teammates have also stood by her side.

"A member of our family is in the fight of her life and needs your help," the team recently wrote on Twitter alongside a link to the GoFundMe as well as the "One4Mon" hashtag, a nod to her uniform number.

Since being created earlier this week, the online fundraiser has already raised over $84,000, thanks in part to donations from the University of Buffalo community.

"Seeing this, I think it's crazy, and it shows how awesome the volleyball community is," Simkova's roommate and teammate Milla Malik told The Buffalo News. "This support has been unreal."

"Monika is an amazing player and an amazing girl," she added. "Everyone went to Monika for support, and we now have to turn and support her, and she deserves this, completely."