Posted on February 9th, 2018
Reading through some of the other experiences, I realize just how lucky I am. I am a three-time sepsis survivor. My first time was 11 years ago. I had been running a fever of ~103 for about 3 days, and felt achy and fatigued, much like you would with the flu but without any of the respiratory system issues. My doctor admitted me to the hospital, and I drove myself there. I was thrombocytopenic (extremely low platelet count). I was in the hospital for 10 days, and went through countless blood cultures, scans, exams and even a bone marrow biopsy. They treated my symptoms, and let me go home once my platelet count recovered but never pinpointed the cause. I didn’t know at the time how “easy” I had it that round.
My other two experiences were August and September of last year. I was two weeks into my recovery from open heart surgery at age 36. (Sepsis and Surgery) When my home health nurse checked my vitals she noticed that my temperature was slightly elevated, only 99.8 I believe. I took some ibuprofen, the fever broke and I thought nothing more of it at the time.
Later on that day I started feeling very tired, and feeling like the fever was creeping back up. It was 103, and my first thought was that the only time I had ever had a fever that high was when I was septic. Once again the fever broke with the ibuprofen, and other than feeling a bit tired I didn’t feel bad so I just went to bed early. The next morning I had a follow-up appointment with one of my doctors and I had a really hard time fully waking up and getting out of bed and just felt really weak and weird. My mother, who was taking me to the appointment, helped me finally get up and took my blood sugar. It was very low, and I figured was the cause of the episode as I had not eaten much. We get to the doctor’s office, and I keep nodding off. After seeing my blood pressure was in the 60s/40s, they started and IV with fluids and sent me to the hospital via ambulance. I was in septic shock. My kidneys were beginning to shut down and my blood oxygen was low.
When my husband met us there and noticed that I was shaking all over every time I would fall asleep/unconscious, he said I had been doing that throughout the night before. I was admitted into the ICU. By the end of the second day I was no longer febrile. While in the hospital, my cardiac surgeon debrided part of my wound and determined it was not healing due to my diabetes and found no infection there. (Sepsis and Diabetes) They were finally able to get all my functions back to normal after six days of antibiotic treatments and a blood infusion, but could not find a source of infection.
I am home for two weeks and feeling as normal as one can in the situation. One day I randomly start running high fevers again, and am directed by home health to the ER. This time I struggle with fevers on and off for a week, sometimes as high as 105.2. Recognizing it early avoided the issue of organ malfunction, however by the third day I was found to be neutropenic (dangerously low white blood cell count), essentially leaving me with no immune system. (Sepsis and Impaired Immune System) It caused my mouth very sore and painful with no system to control the natural oral bacteria. It became impossible to eat for about 9 days and was placed on IV nutrition for 7 days once my blood sugar bottomed out. Extensive testing was done to ensure there was no infection in either the pericardial sac or the repaired sternum. (FYI: having someone pressing down on a healing sternum while you deeply inhale is EXTREMELY painful.) I was again tested for any kind of condition that effects the immune system including another bone marrow biopsy. After 14 days of infusions of multiple antibiotics, two units of blood and a few special injections my white blood cell count finally rose. I again had a functioning immune system and was able to go home.
The most frustrating part of it all is that, even after seeing an infectious disease specialist and a hematologist, no one was ever able to tell me what offending antigen set off this nightmare in any of the three situations. All they could say is it was probably a virus and to be extra careful anytime I may be immuno-compromised. As I am diabetic, that’s always. I also have another surgery scheduled in a month, and I am worried that the extra load will leave me vulnerable to another blitzkrieg.