Last summer (2022) I found out I suffered from pericardial effusion and I was always weak and out of breath. One day I finally had a nice time with my family going out, visiting a farm (we haven’t been able to do anything nice lately because of how tired and weak I was). Then, the next day I started feeling horrible, not having any ideas what was happening to me. My husband called for an ambulance because he got scared. Luckily, the paramedic immediately recognized the symptoms: very high temperature (40C), chest and stomach pain, vomiting and chills. Even though the system is very slow (more than 12 hours waiting time) I got to the hospital at 8:30 in the morning and at 12pm I was in the theatre having the fluid around my heart drained. Unfortunately by midnight I developed sepsis and the next day I was in a coma from the septic shock, caused by a strep A infection. (Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus)
I am only 35 and I have a 4 year old son. Without the amazing team of doctors and nurses who took care of me I wouldn’t be here. I was put on dialysis, a ventilator and other machines to keep me alive. All my organs except for my heart and brain failed. I was being kept alive artificially. I can’t thank enough the doctor from the intensive care unit who took over my case. He gathered an army of other doctors and nurses. Although his shift finished, he refused to leave me. He spent more than 15 hours next to me, talking to 4-5 telephones at the same time, having conferences with other specialists from London, Manchester, Leeds etc. Every time a new emergency came, he called another doctor to take care of it. He looked my husband in the eyes and promised him he would never leave my side until he knows for sure what will happen. He kept saying to himself while trying to save me: “She can’t die. She’s only 35.” / “She mustn’t die. She has a 4 year old at home.”
I was in a coma for 2 weeks and I had 0 chances to survive. My husband was told that I wouldn’t get through the night.
I live in England with my husband and son and our families are in a different country. They all came to see me for the last time. My husband tried to protect our son from the trauma so he couldn’t cry or allow himself to show his feelings around our son. He suffered in silence and it nearly destroyed him.
While I was in a coma, my body gathered 18 liters of fluid in total (heart and lungs), my lungs turned to stone from the heaviness and when they tried to extract the fluid, my heart rate was flying to over 200 and my blood pressure dropped to 40/50. My lungs collapsed, I developed blood clots in my neck and everything seemed to be worse by the minute. The nurses were more than amazing. I am sure it’s not in their job description to tell you stories, sing to you, shave your legs or style your hair.
After I woke up and my husband told me everything that happened, I couldn’t believe a word. I felt like superwoman for fighting with death and kicking its a**, even though I couldn’t move at all. I was so weak I couldn’t even scratch my own nose. But I felt strong, like I was reborn. The medical team called me a miracle.
With baby steps I learned again to walk using a frame, then alone; I managed to brush my teeth and hair, to shower. To do the things we always take for granted until we lose them.
Now that I’m home, the adrenaline is starting to fade. I feel weak and depressed. I get flashbacks and I am physically sick if I hear sounds that remind me of ICU or if I see someone with oxygen mask on. I lost my hair and nails and my skin is peeling off. I know it could have been worse. But I am here, I am whole, my body miraculously got rid of all the fluid and instead of being happy and grateful, all I feel is guilt, sorrow and terror. I am terrified it could happen again to me or someone I love. I feel incredibly guilty because of what I put my family through. I hate the extreme fatigue and weakness which won’t let me live my life. I am a shell of what I was and I hate myself. I don’t know how to help my husband. It was the second time I saw him cry in our whole relationship (18 years) and he told me he felt like his life was ruined in a second. He lost his wife, the mother of his child, his best friend, his everything and there was nothing he could do. I tried to convince him to do some therapy but he refuses. He says he’s not ready to talk to someone else.
Will this guilt ever pass? Will I be strong enough again to be able to go outside alone without being afraid of losing my balance? Will I ever forgive myself for what I put my husband and son through? I can only hope that in time it’ll all get better. I’m sure it will; we all just need enough time to heal.
The reason I decided to share my story is to raise awareness. Please, learn and don’t ignore the symptoms. Time is very important and it can save lives. Also, if your loved one or you survived sepsis, be kind to them/yourself. The post sepsis syndrome is not easy to get through. Ask for support and find other people who went through something similar. Only they will understand what it means. You are brave and you are not alone!