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James Byrne


I was a healthy, active 75 year old; playing golf at least 3 times a week and trail riding my horse on my off golf days. On 1/11/19 I felt I might be coming down with the flu so I went to bed early only to discover that I was experiencing lower back pain that was getting progressively worse as night dragged on. Finally at about 4 a.m. I asked my wife to get me to the E.R. all the while crying and screaming from pain the likes of which I have never experienced…and I thought kidney stones were painful.

The last thing I consciously remember was getting into the car. I have no recollection of the drive to the E.R., the arrival at the hospital and what my wife describes as two hulking paramedics that literally dragged me out of the car. My next recollection of events was laying on an E.R. gurney and being treated by a cadre of doctors and nurses. I could hear doctors giving orders for intravenous therapies and I could see two pints of blood being insurged into my body, but all I could do was scream from pain and beg for some relief. It was my wife who brought me into reality when she told me I was very sick and I had to fight with everything I could muster.

It seems the beginning of my bout with sepsis stemmed from a urinary tract infection. (Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections) At some point either before I left the house or en route to the E.R., I had a kidney cyst that burst and spread the UTI infection throughout my body. To make matters worse, after being stabilized in E.R. and moved to ICU, I experienced a severe episode of atrial fibrilation, compounded by a temperature of 104 degrees. The most chilling aspect of this entire experience was when the doctors told my wife to call my children because they weren’t sure they could save me.

I stayed in hospital from 1/11/19 to 1/18/19 when I was discharged to a rehabilitation facility for physical therapy and post hospital care. I am fighting my way back physically after losing some 25 pounds but it hasn’t been easy. At least I’m to the point where I can get around with a cane in open areas and no support in closed areas where I can grasp a wall or furniture if needed.

But beyond the physicality and therapy needed to get stronger, the mental disability of septic shock is debilitating. At night while lying in bed I relive the experience over and over again. I can’t shake it. Like others, every little ache or pain makes me wonder if I should head to the E.R. or just gut it out. I have little tolerance for people who give me advice as if I’m recovering from the flu. They have no idea of the mental anguish associated with this traumatic event. I came within minutes of dying and were it not for 3 dedicated physicians who immediately grasped my situation I would have perished. Had the E.R. been 20 miles further, I would not have made it.

I have a lot to be thankful for but I am in constant worry that I will eventually experience another sepsis event and my ability to survive the next one will not be as fortunate. I try very hard to be positive and believe this to be a one-off event but then reality sets in and I wonder if I will be a statistic like many others before me.

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