Cheryl Gillem

Survivor

October 24, 2016 is the day my life changed, seemingly forever. Me, my daughter & my business partner Donna were in Lubbock Texas on school/business. We live a few hours from there. The evening before I began to have some symptoms although I had been fine when I drove us out there. I had some “tightness and pressure” in my chest. While we were in a public setting I had my daughter loosen my bra as I thought that was the reason for my discomfort. I couldn’t ear my dinner and developed a severe headache. I slept fitfully.

The next morning we started with shortness of breath. I would have to actually stop and rest while walking down to the lobby of our hotel. I had started smoking about two weeks prior after not doing so for about 17 years. I do not know if that fact made the situation worse or not. Donna and I set about the business at hand, looking for a client that had skipped out on our bail bond company and the court while my daughter attended a class. During the morning my cognitive thinking began to diminish. My physical symptoms continued to worsen. Donna wanted to take me to a clinic but I wanted to just wait for my daughter’s class to end and drive home to see local doctors. I drove the wrong way down a one-way street and when Donna told me this I didn’t see why that wasn’t ok. This is out of character for me.

I am an admitted control freak. While knowing each other many years and having complete trust in the one another, Donna had never driven my car. Actually never driving on any of our trips to secure the arrest of a bail jumper. The reason that is important is I then asked her to drive my car, go to a store and buy me a pillow and blanket so I could lay in the backseat while she waited till my daughter finish class and then drive the few hours home. She thought waiting to seek medical help was not a good idea but I am stubborn so she agreed to this plan. The next word I said was hospital.

Luckily we had passed one in our earlier business and she found it easily. Then a whirlwind began. Vitals were taken. Blood pressure low, heart rate high, an X-ray showed something we didn’t understand in my chest. The staff asked if I had an advanced directive which I do. No machines I told them. I called my husband, hours away at home but had to give the phone to Donna to explain as I wasn’t making sense. I remember being wheeled out of the emergency exam room.

My next memory was waking in a weird room with something inserted in my throat and not being able to draw a breath. I was tied to a bed with many lines and tubes attached to me. I had been in the ICU for several days. My family had been called in from out of state, told I wasn’t gonna wake up most likely. I was terrified upon waking. The thing in my throat was a respirator and I couldn’t breathe because it was doing so for me. Against my wishes. I could not process all that had and was occurring.

It was now November, my daughter’s birthday had passed all the while I was unaware. My condition started to improve and the respirator was removed. I had a central line in my neck and not a spot on either arm or hand was without bruises. In total I was hospitalized in Lubbock from 10/24/2016 till 11/06/2016. I left against medical advice to go to my home. I was told by the staff that I would not survive this trip. Once home I went to my local hospital and had them get the medical information from the hospital in Lubbock. I was weak but alive.

My local hospital kept me one night and released me on medication for infection and steroids. I would like to say that is where my story ends buts it was really just beginning. In the 15 months since I have had to be treated for insomnia, anxiety, depression, nightmares & more. I am now diagnosed with PTSD. (Sepsis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) I am unable to handle stress, have anxiety attacks in what used to be normal (for my line of work) situations take medications each day trying to stop the depression, see a psychologist and am unable to to participate in my business and life as I did prior to Lubbock. The list of diagnoses is mind blowing. From the Lubbock hospital records alone:

Final: Sepsis, unspecified organism
Final: Acute respiratory failure with hypercapnia
Final: Acute respiratory failure with hypoxia
Final: Severe sepsis with septic shock
Final: Pneumonia, unspecified organism
Final: Pleural effusion, not elsewhere classified
Final: Alkalosis
Final: Unspecified protein-calorie malnutrition
Final: Nicotine dependence, cigarettes, uncomplicated
Final: Anemia, unspecified
Final: Hematuria, unspecified
Final: Hypokalemia
Final: Hyperglycemia, unspecified
Final: Adverse effect of glucocorticoids and synthetic analogues, initial encounter Final: Hormone replacement therapy (postmenopausal)
Final: Acquired absence of both cervix and uterus
Discharge Diagnosis: Chest pain
Discharge Diagnosis: Sepsis
Discharge Diagnosis: Shortness of breath
Discharge Diagnosis: Encounter for intubation
Discharge Diagnosis: Encounter for nasogastric (NG) tube placement
Discharge Diagnosis: ARDS (adult respiratory distress syndrome)
Discharge Diagnosis: Acute respiratory failure
Discharge Diagnosis: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
Discharge Diagnosis: Severe sepsis with septic shock
Discharge Diagnosis: CAP (community acquired pneumonia)
Discharge Diagnosis: Tobacco abuse
Discharge Diagnosis: Protein-calorie malnutrition
Discharge Diagnosis: Acute pulmonary embolism
Discharge Disposition: Left Against Medical Advice

I was a mostly healthy 49-year-old independent, strong-willed business owner on 10/23/2016. I am no longer that person. Many months later I saw the list of drugs administered while in the coma and afterwards during my stay at that hospital and now I am amazed I can write this at all.

April 2019: Update on my condition: Today I am back to work about 25-30 hours a week. I still see a psychologist regularly and cannot sleep without medication. We have been through multiple medications. At this point I finally have one that helps me sleep through most nights. Without it I wake most nights at approximately the same time of night that I was put on life support. This really is a life long issue for me and probably so many others.