My name is Grace Lee. On October 4th 2020 I woke up in abdominal pain and went to work, only be driven home minutes later by a friend in 10/10 pain. I spent the whole day crouched over my bed throwing up pretty much nothing. Me and my parents thought I must have food poisoning but I knew deep down this pain was severe.
I tried to sleep but couldn’t. Lay down I was in so much pain. At 3 am I went to the hospital and was screaming in the most pain I could ever imagine, it felt like my body was being ripped in half. A CAT scan showed a perforated stomach which led to emergency surgery at 11 am that same morning October 5th 2020. I was in ICU for a few days and was moved to the surgical unit days later. The doctors found ulcers in my stomach that had ruptured and caused the hole. My ulcers were caused by stress, anxiety, and PTSD from a school shooting that I was in 3 years ago today December 7th. (Sepsis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
When my surgeon removed my wound vacc and found my wound had been infected, he cut my stitches out in my bed as I begged for pain meds. (Sepsis and Surgery) And pushed infection out of me. Then I was started on multiple antibiotics (a wound culture was not done) which was asked for. 5 antibiotics and not one probiotic. I grew cold sores in my mouth and down my throat which my surgeon would not look at, I was told “you will tolerate”. I had another CAT scan that found abscesses of bacteria and infection around my ribs. (Sepsis and Bacterial Infections)
My surgeon’s PA discovered a hole in my surgical wound that was showing a bowel. She noticed this when coming to apologize for my surgeon not having bedside manners. Minutes after I went into another emergency surgery to clean out the abscess and to fix the opening in my surgical wound. I had peritonitis and the infection got into my blood.
My temperature was 102.5 for about a week straight and my pain was getting worse and worse. I told my surgeon on October 16th, “I believe I can’t breathe as well, I’m in so much pain and I feel very distended. I think there is fluid in my abdominal area” he told me “it’s probably saline that I left in there from the last surgery. We will continue the same antibiotics. Have a good day” and began to walk out of my room when I asked to be transferred to a hospital in a larger city.
That day I was air flown to another hospital where they immediately began leg massage machines on my legs for my extreme edema, and contrast for another CAT scan. That night they found over a liter of infection in my abdominal cavity. As soon as I got to that hospital they took my vitals and diagnosed me with severe septic shock. That next day a doctor numbed my side and attempted to drain the infection from my abdominal cavity, because a drain wouldn’t be placed if there weren’t abscesses the doctors said. They would have re opened me but at that point I would not have survived it a third time.
My liver and kidneys were showing sign of failure at this point. The infection was too thick to drain out with what he had. This hospital did not have radiologists on the weekends, so I would have to wait until Monday to get a drain placed, when it was Friday at the time. I didn’t think I could make it those few days. When minutes later they decided to ambulance me to another hospital in the city to get a drain placed in my abdominal cavity. Days later another CAT scan was performed and two abscesses were found, one behind my liver and one in my pelvic area behind my bladder. Two more drains were placed. I had the most amazing nursing staff. For three weeks I drained infection out of my body and began to get better. A nurse told me “you’re a miracle in my book girl, did you know that? We didn’t expect you to survive”. That is when me and my mother truly realized the severity of sepsis and the lack of awareness. I knew then that I was going to survive and share my story to raise awareness.
COVID rapidly started to get worse and they were doubling patients per room so they decided my mother knew enough and I was getting better enough to send me home with my drains in place still. I would then come back two weeks later to check on them. When the two weeks came, I returned and got them removed. It was a very emotional day, they remembered me from the hospital and told me that they were so happy to see me out of a gown.
When my fevers went away, and my vitals got better, I knew the infection was gone. I praise the Lord for the answered prayers. I am a survivor and still recovering. My wound is healing beautifully and I’m gaining strength back little by little. I can go up the stairs in my house by myself now, and I’m slowly gaining my weight back. Post sepsis syndrome is affecting me in hair loss, and weight loss, and lack of sleep..(as I type this at 3:18 am) I’m mentally stronger than I ever was before because of my battle and the mindset I kept to keep me going. The hardest part of it all was when the hospital made the rules for no visitors and my mother had to leave me. I didn’t think I could do it alone, and I had anxiety attack after anxiety attack which just worsened my pain. A doctor realized the importance of my mother being by my side and made an exception for her to come back into the hospital and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I cried and cried. Without her by my side I don’t know if I would have been able to survive. I am so happy to have found this place to share my story and hopefully raise more awareness. Especially to my community, where the hospital knew little about what to do. Thank you so much Sepsis Alliance. -Grace Lee