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Nikki Belza

Survivor

Up until Sunday, August 7th 2016, my 33rd birthday, I was a relatively healthy woman. With no major health problems, I didn’t expect what was supposed to be a celebratory day, end in almost tragedy.

I woke up on schedule to get ready for work, and noticed that I had some tenderness in my left breast. Writing it off to a bad sleep position, I continued to get ready.

Within 30 minutes of arriving to work, the pain steadily increased. I tried to fight through it, but I ended up collapsing in excruciating pain and was rushed to the emergency room.

My heart rate was exceeding 135bpm, my blood pressure dropped extremely low and I was dripping sweat, while shivering in pain.

After some testing, and several heavy doses of Dilaudid, I was left with no diagnosis. My plastic surgeon was out of town for the next two days, so I was advised to follow up with him upon his return.

So, we went home. I barely remember most of it. My fever shot up to 104.1°F, I was still in excruciating pain and I was convinced that I was going to die. I never felt pain to that degree. I’ve had natural childbirth, passed multiple kidney stones and I have several large tattoos. NOTHING remotely compares to the pain I was experiencing.

My husband CJ knew the severity of the situation. He saw the pain in my eyes. He was not going to let me suffer for the next two days. He called my plastic surgeon and emailed him a detailed update. Within the next few hours, Dr. Cambeiro returned early from his vacation and had me come immediately to his office, following the complete blood work that he ordered. Immediately recognizing the symptoms, he knew we had to act quick. While we were in the examination room, my blood results came back.

My white blood cell count was 44,000. My doctor had immediate concern in his face as he explained that he’s never seen a white blood cell count that high. He said it was astronomical for someone like me.

I was rushed into emergency surgery on Monday night, August 8th 2016 at 5:00PM. Due to the emergency circumstance, my surgeon, along with infectious disease specialist, Dr. Lipman, were left with no option but to remove my breast implant and all remaining breast tissue. They said I really didn’t have much of a choice, but if I insisted, they could try an IV in-hospital treatment for a few days first. But it was a 50/50 gamble. It would either heal up nicely over the course of a few days …. or… possibly fall into full septic shock, fall into a coma, live in ICU, then most likely die.

I might live in Las Vegas, but I’ll never gamble with my life.

Following the surgery, I spent another four days at the hospital in step down ICU, and one extra morning in the med surg/general post-operative care unit. I was discharged on 8/11/16.

I left the hospital 16lbs heavier than when I was admitted, due to the amount of fluid I was administered. It was painful. I was given a diuretic before discharge.

A few days later I went in for more blood work and X-rays. Not making any progress, I had to follow up with my infectious disease specialist on 8/18/16. He rushed me back to the ER, again.

This time it was suspicions of a pulmonary embolism. My legs were cramped, I couldn’t breathe and my heart rate was high. After 10 hours, it luckily turned out to be pleurisy, painful lung inflammation. I was given steroids, a breathing treatment and was eventually released with caution.

That brings me to today. It’s only been 2 weeks. Sepsis has taken everything from me, except for my life.

I can’t breathe. My lungs hurt. My bones hurt. My muscles are sore. My eyes burn. My nail beds are burning. Every organ throbs. My blood feels like hot oil flowing in my veins. My back feels like it’s broken. It’s hard to walk. I lose my breath while walking 5 feet. I’m dizzy all the time. I’m nauseous. I’m tired. I can’t eat. I can’t drink. I lose my breath while talking. I’m having trouble remembering stuff. Noise hurts my ears. I can’t see clearly. I’m freezing cold. I’m burning hot. I’m dripping sweat. (Sepsis and Post-Sepsis Syndrome)

I hate this more than I can put into words.

I’ve already been hospitalized twice in two weeks, 6 of those days hooked up to machines. If you suspect that you might have Sepsis, you need to treat it with the same urgency as you would a heart attack. Yes, it’s THAT serious. This is from the CDC:

S Shivering, high fever 104+
E EXTREME pain, “worst ever”.
P Pale discolored skin.
S Sleepy, confusion.
I “I feel like I might die”.
S Shortness of breath.

Please share my story, be aware of these symptoms, you can save a life!

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