I grew up in a house of 7. I was the second oldest, by 18 minutes, to my identical twin. We had another sister a year after we were born and another sister two years after we were born and then 8 years later a brother, along with my mom and dad. David, my brother was the most protected and loved kid there could ever be. He had a heart of gold, loved hanging out with Dad and loved irritating my Mom, in a very teenage son way! He never made it to his high school graduation. He was killed in a car accident and my family truly thought we would never recover. As we struggled through the grief we began to accept things about each other that seemed difficult to overlook before. And nothing mattered as much as family.
My Mom….What can I say. No one was as fiercely loyal to me as my mom. She truly thought I hung the moon. She was protective of all ‘her girls’ and I am sure my sisters felt the same love I did. She was energetic, loved tennis, and kept herself in good shape. When my mom cut her leg pretty bad and went to the doctor after a period of time, the doctor prescribed prednisone. It became increasingly difficult for her immune system to keep up with any infections. (Sepsis and Impaired Immune System)
She became lethargic, and was sick all the time. She gained between 60-80 pounds (steroids) and we discovered she was given a dose 9 x what was originally prescribed. We questioned the prescription over and over and took her to different doctors. Her muscles became so atrophied and she was now too heavy for my dad to help her. She eventually developed pneumonia and was hospitalized. (Sepsis and Pneumonia) Following her release she fell, three or four times, broke her spine, had back surgery and was then released into a “rehabilitation center” which was a nursing home, not a rehabilitation center. This began the infection cycle that would eventually take over.
She developed pneumonia two or three times and contracted UTIs and C-Diff more times than is comprehensible. (Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections, Sepsis and C. Diff) All the while she was written off as “old”. We literally watched her get weaker and weaker until she could not fight anymore. She lasted 6 months in “rehab” before she died. When people asked us what happened we are still unsure how to answer. We think her initial infection was never properly treated and she likely developed sepsis. Her injury, a cut on her leg, treated with steroids and not medically managed caused her immune system to become compromised. Looking back the signs were there, if we would have known what to look for, or what questions to ask the doctors. The barrage of medical errors, lack of communication between doctors and patronizing conversations with both my Mom and Dad still keep me up at night. If we could share any advice, it would be to educate yourselves with as much knowledge as possible, ask questions and keep asking questions. I would find, or become a medical advocate to interact with all the doctors that refuse to interact with each other.
And now we are a family of 5. My three sisters and I took turns visiting Dad, but we planned for all of us to get together in May of 2015, to scatter Mom’s ashes by my brother. It was the same weekend of our youngest sister, Laura’s birthday, so to celebrate we got her a puppy. I have truly never seen her so excited. Best Weekend Ever.
We had no idea that we would lose her 7 months later. Laura previously had surgery on a hernia and developed some complications with scar tissue. (Sepsis and Surgery) She was scheduled for surgery in December, 2015 and I when I talked to her before the surgery she was so scared and said she “didn’t feel right about this”. This was not like my sister. It was not supposed to be a risky surgery, so it felt odd hearing that. She was right! From there, her life became a rapid spiral and a desperate fight to live. After her surgery, she was released from the hospital with no instructions and minimal information. When I talked to her a few days after she had been released she said she knew something was wrong. She called the hospital a few times and her husband called a few times and they were told this was a normal reaction after surgery. No one asked her if she had a temperature, what her heart rate was, if she was having difficulty breathing, etc. Her husband finally took her to the ER. She was admitted her original surgeon and 2 new doctors were assigned to her care where one of the new doctors discovered her bowel had been “nicked” in several different places during surgery and she was now in a serious battle with severe sepsis. After a painful and heartbreaking 2 weeks, she lost her fight. (Sepsis and Perforated Bowel)
The thing that stands out to me was the lack of information that could have saved my sister’s life. How can something this common be so dismissed when patients are released from the hospital after surgery? It may not be dismissive in a malicious way, but conscientiously as medical professionals, it’s irresponsible not to make a concerted effort to have information specifically on sepsis with ANY and ALL discharge packets from the hospital; signs, symptoms, what to do, what to look for, who to call and what to say.
My mom, an infection not treated correctly leads her on a 1 ½ year roller coaster of pain, anxiety, confusion and infection after infection that exacerbates her condition until the fight in her is gone.
My sister, a botched surgery, No information about the possibility of sepsis when released, dismissive responses when she calls, blame shifting all lead to her inability to fight something that already had its hold on her. She loses her fight.
Now we are 4.