In late July of 2021, soon after I turned 59, I traveled from my home in Houston, Texas, to visit family in southern Indiana. I am widowed and finally was able to enjoy traveling on my own. Unknowingly, I had RSV but I thought it was just allergies. I did not feel sick. As required, I wore a mask on the plane ride. I arrived to my destination and still felt fine.
The next day, I started coughing up bloody mucous but again, I didn’t feel sick. I reassured my cousin that if I was still coughing up bloody mucous the next day, I’d go to urgent care. Late that night, I told my cousin I was going to bed. I stood up and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and make sure my bladder was empty. As I sat on the toilet, I could barely stay awake. I thought I was just that sleepy.
When I went into the hallway on the way to my bedroom, I collapsed and hit my head on the corner of a table. I vaguely remember my cousin lightly slapping my face and yelling to “stay with me.” She thought I had had a stroke. Her husband called 911 but I was already unconscious. I do not remember the ride in the ambulance nor having a CT scan of my head (normal). I was taken to the emergency department and what finally brought me to was the doctor at my head putting a guide wire from my carotid artery in my neck so they could get medicine to my heart immediately. That was painful.
There were multiple hospital staffers around my bed who were tapping on my chest and yelling at me to breathe when all I wanted to do was sleep. The doctor told me every time I nodded off, I stopped breathing. The doctor told me I was in septic shock and if I didn’t continue to breathe on my own, they would have to put me on a ventilator. (Sepsis and Septic Shock) Those words made me focus on staying awake and breathing. They told me I was extremely ill and close to death. When I arrived, my BP was 60/40. I spent the next six days in the ICU in a hospital far away from home. Ironically, my father died from septic shock 20 years earlier after major surgery.
One week later, I was released to go back to my cousin’s home in southern Indiana. I then returned home to Houston three days later. My 4-year-old grandson accompanied his dad, who is my son, came into the airport to pick me up. My grandson ran up to me and said, “Nana, I’m so happy you didn’t die.” The next several weeks were a challenge – I was so fatigued and having nightmares about what I’d been through. I have a local pulmonologist who keeps track of me but I’ll admit I’m still not back to 100% after 15 months. I’m still fatigued and I’m struggling with PTSD and depression. I see a psychiatrist and a therapist who is helping me with my mental health struggles. Fibromyalgia and fatigue are a part of my daily life. I’ve recently suffered a bout with very painful and spontaneous hematomas in my pelvic region. There’s no answer on whether that’s part of post-sepsis syndrome but it’s an odd occurrence. It looked like I had been assaulted.
I spend a lot of time with my two grandsons, ages 6 and 3, and I feel so fortunate to be alive.