Sepsis and My Story

On September 25, 2011. I started feeling bad on a 7-hour road trip back to North Carolina from Tennessee. I just felt bad but feverish. It continued to get worse over the next week. A lot worse. Numerous trips to the doctor and emergency room. Spinal taps, CAT scans, debilitating migraine headaches, violent vomiting, dehydration, more blood work, more urinalysis, chest x-rays.

Then the night of October 25, 2011, arrived. Late that Wednesday night after a spinal tap, several x-rays and ultrasounds, more blood work and my fever spiking to almost 106 … I managed to finally give one more urine sample that took everything I had in me just to get out of that bed. That urine sample I gave was dark brown almost black and the final test that told doctors this was more serious than they thought. And then I heard something said by a doctor that I never should have heard. “She’s dying.” And within minutes I was being rushed to ICU.

By this point, I had become somewhat disoriented. But I knew enough to pick my chart up off my stretcher as we were going to ICU to see what my admitting diagnosis was. And there it was in big bold letters. My beast. The ugly beast that reared it’s head and was killing me that night. SEPTIC SHOCK. I knew what this was. I had worked in medical malpractice defense law firms for 15 years. This was not good. And I knew it. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. How did I get sepsis to begin with? And how did I have it bad enough that my body had gone into septic shock?

Basically my body was poisoning itself to death. My organs had started shutting down. My kidneys obviously were on the list since my urine was almost black. My heart rate sky rocketed trying to keep up with my body.

My fever was over 105. My blood pressure dropped to dangerously low numbers. My gallbladder all but quit. My digestive system went haywire.

My head hurt so bad that it felt like someone was swinging a ball bat against the back of my skull constantly. No pain meds were helping.

I just hurt. Badly!

I was swollen from all of the fluids they were pumping in me. I couldn’t breathe. I became agitated and confused. I had so many wires and monitors hooked up to me in ICU. My veins collapsed from the dehydration to the point I had to have a port put into a major vein in my arm.

It was bad. I was dying. And I knew it. They could not figure out what was wrong. I had some type of infection but my body was rejecting any type of antibiotic treatments. It was not looking good for me.

The survival rate for septic shock is not very good especially if it gets to where I was. I was sick. But I was so hopped up on so much medications for everything that I just really didn’t know what was going on.

The first several days of ICU are just a fog to me still to this day.  About day 5 in the ICU, my body finally started reacting to an antibiotic treatment but I wholeheartedly think that was because of the prayer I laid there and said.  I was so sick I wanted to die but I also didn't want to leave my kids behind.  So I just prayed "Father, hold me."  The doctors and nurses said they couldn't explain it.  They had already told my husband that I wouldn't live through the night and I closed my eyes to die when I whispered that prayer.  I just remember my room lighting up a bright peaceful and wonderful white light and feeling like I was being picked up and held in someone's lap in my bed.  But that is about the time, my body started reacting to the last course of antibiotics. My heart rate started going down, my blood pressure started going back up.  I look at it that I am a walking talking MIRACLE!  

I spent a week in the ICU unit and another week in the step-down unit before I finally got to go home.  My discharge diagnosis: Ehrlichiosis (a tick-born illness) even though they are not 100% sure that was the culprit.  Possibility a UTI was behind it as well.  

I knew that I had hundreds of prayers going up for me the entire time. I have amazing prayer warrior friends. I had people praying for me that I didn’t even know! And for that I’m thankful.

I spent two months at home unable to work or do much of anything. I was eventually able to get back in the swing of things somewhat. But not without post-sepsis residuals. And as time has gone on, I still have traumatic effects from it both physically and mentally.  As a result I have Post-Sepsis Syndrome, Complex PTSD, anxiety, depression, excessive exhaustion, chronic nerve and muscle pain, cognitive disorder, chronic migraines, occipital neuralgia, Superventricular tachycadia (rapid heart rate), and affects my facial paralysis sometimes.  

But I am so very thankful to be alive and beat the odds stacked against me that night. This beast has made me have a passion for those who have survived the illness as well as the care-takers and families of those who were not so lucky.  I am an ambassador for The Begin Again Foundation and a member of the American Trauma Society Survivors Network.  You can find my story on any of the links below.