Juan Simental

Survivor

Shortly after my student teaching, I developed flu-like symptoms like a runny nose and cough. I didn’t think anything of it at first. Having worked with children, I got sick at least three times that year.

Soon, the cough persisted and would not go away. This was followed by a fever. I was watching T.V. one night and my heart rate jumped to 150 beats per minute. I had extreme chills and my limbs went numb. I couldn’t even move. Eventually I was able to get out of the chair I was sitting in and my dad, who was watching a movie with me at the time, helped me up and carried me to the parking lot of my apartment. He planned on taking me to the emergency room. My heart rate would not slow down. I was cold, numb, and could not walk. I collapsed in the parking lot and my dad had called an ambulance. The paramedics got there and took me away. When I arrived to the E.R, the doctors took my vitals and saw that my heart rate was abnormal and my blood pressure was low. They did not mention the word sepsis.

Fortunately, they administered fluids quickly and the doctor came over to my bed. He said they had to find a way to slow my heart down so they pumped me full of this burning medication. I still felt cold, numb, weak, and could barely move. I remember the doctor saying something about them trying to stabilize me so they wouldn’t “lose” me. I now know that if the sepsis had gotten worse, organ failure was the next stage. Eventually, they hooked me up to antibiotics. It felt like my body was shutting down. I ran a fever of 103 and my heart rate would not stabilize. Eventually, I said some prayers and thought that this was the end. I was going to die. So I prayed and said goodbye to my dad.

However, the antibiotics and heart medication began to work. My insides felt like they were on fire though. Eventually, they stabilized me and kept me under close watch. The following day the fever did not subside. I could not eat or drink anything without vomiting, but my heart rate was semi normal again. They increased the fluids and strength of the antibiotics. I remember aches and pains too. I was also vomiting from post nasal drip too. They eventually put ice packs on me and the fever went down to 101 to 100 slowly. I could not sleep at all that second night because I felt too concerned about the fever and vomiting. The next day, the fever had subsided. I felt incredibly weak but was grateful to be alive. They kept me one more night until my vitals were good.

Recovery from sepsis took me about six weeks. I felt incredibly weak and had trouble walking. My dad took care of me while all of this was going on. I had maybe two hours of strength throughout the day and when the evening came I was exhausted. I felt aches and pains throughout my body in addition to fatigue. Then panic attacks and anxiety started to occur and I felt like I was reliving the hospital stay over and over. I would get trapped in my own thoughts and these feelings of terror would come over me. I thought that the infection was going to return and this time, kill me. Although I had dealt with panic attacks before, these were different. I had them four times a day. I would break out in sweats, feeling adrenaline rushes, heart rate increase, numbness, and dizziness. I think my body and mind were trying to protect themselves while recovering from the infection. I also finished the antibiotics prescribed to me by the hospital (Levoquin).

I had several follow ups with my primary doctor and he eventually decided to put me on Prozac for panic attacks and Ambian for sleep (since the anxiety and pain were bad). Things got better. I thought that the recovery would last forever but it didn’t. Life got good again. My doctor also told me that it was important for me to stay active and that my body would recover if I forced myself to do small activities throughout the day. So I took walks, went to the park and fed the ducks, and did chores around the house.

A month and a half after sepsis, things seemed normal. I continued to take the Prozac and Ambian. One day, I went to a bookstore to browse around and felt very tired. I decided to take a cat nap in my car because I was so tired. I woke up after the nap and completely lost my memory. I did not know who, what, or where I was. I didn’t even know my name. The episode is vague but I remember walking around the city of Davis, California. Eventually, my name came back to me and I picked up my cell phone and called the last person on there. Fortunately, it was one of my best friends and he took me to the ER.

I couldn’t remember anything about my past but I began to remember my name, social security number, and address. So they ran a bunch of tests and kept me in the hospital for several days. A psychiatrist told me that I had dissociative amnesia, which can sometimes happen after a traumatic event. In addition, one doctor concluded that my liver may have had trouble breaking down the anti-depressants and sleeping pills resulting in a mental shut down. I researched it more thoroughly and I found out that many people who mix anti-depressants with sleeping pills can develop amnesia.

Recovery from the amnesia took about a week but my memory did come back. I stayed with my sister during this time. I remembered the sepsis, the painful recovery, and who, what, and where I was. I did feel detached from my surroundings because I had to become familiar with everything again. Feelings of unreality started to set in. I was placed on two medications: Celexa and Klonopin for anxiety. I also saw a psychiatrist who managed my medications and helped me resolve my issues through healthy psychotherapy.

Today, I am proud to say that I have fully recovered. It took about eight weeks to feel normal again (having recovered from both the sepsis and amnesia). I still see my psychiatrist because I have found that medication combined with psychotherapy is the best cure for anxiety disorders. I have resumed my teaching ambitions and have revaluated myself and try to become the person I want to be. I also continue to play music and go salsa dancing throughout the week. I am grateful for every moment I have. I remember talking to a friend of mine while recovering from sepsis because I thought I would not get better. He assured me that I would and maybe, through sharing my experience, I would be able to help someone else.