I am a 67-year-old retired public health nurse and sepsis survivor. In 2010, I suffered what appeared to be a simple ankle sprain. But as days went by, I began to have excruciating pain in my ankle and leg, everything I ate tasted like sawdust, I was nauseous, ran a fever and began to have bleeding from my gut. My physician treated me with antibiotics for what she felt was a urinary tract infection.
Within two weeks, my condition was worsening. I could not get out of bed without extreme shortness of breath. By the time my physician decided to admit me to the hospital, my blood pressure was dangerously low, and my heart rate 140. I had already lost 10 pounds. I was admitted to the hospital for sepsis. However, the hospital physicians could not figure out the source of the infection, since my kidneys were failing, my liver enzymes were off, I was bleeding from my gut, my electrolytes dangerously off kilter and my bloodwork showed I had lost a lot of blood.
Finally, on the advice of my physician, the orthopedist extracted fluid from my sprained ankle and found that it was infested with Strep B bacteria. (Sepsis and Group B Streptococcus) I needed several different IV antibiotics, medicine to keep my blood pressure from dropping, potassium, and two separate surgeries to remove the infection from my ankle, which by now had climbed up to my mid calf. I needed two blood transfusions, 7 days in the hospital, and was left with an ankle that would be destroyed of all its cartilage from the infection. I am left with an ankle that does not move at all, because not only was the cartilage destroyed, but the bones of the ankle fused by themselves. I can no longer walk normally, am not able to run. During one of my surgeries, a specialist came in to make sure that I had not contracted flesh eating bacteria.
I consider myself very fortunate that the bacteria I had contracted into my bloodstream was not one that could have killed me or prevented circulation to my limbs, causing amputation. Nobody knows for certain, how I contracted this bacterium, and how it traveled to my ankle. The organ failures distracted the doctors to not think about the ankle. My physician spent two days studying her Harrison’s medical manual until she finally realized it could be my sprained ankle that was the source of my troubles.
I am so grateful to be alive. My physical impairment is a constant reminder to me to be aware of symptoms of infection and ultimately sepsis, and my lifestyle now includes ultra sensitivity to preventing infection, preventing spread of such, and making sure to connect the dots that aren’t normally connected if I or loved ones get sick.
Dealing with the life transformation related to sepsis affected me more than the breast cancer I dealt with years before.
It was so important to have family support to keep me hopeful and grounded.