Kimberly Dierks

Survivor

This past summer, August 2019, was like any summer for a 31-year-old elementary teacher. I was enjoying my time off with my two kids and living my normal life. In a matter of days everything changed. One second I was planning a play date with my coworkers and the next I went to the ER on a Sunday night for pain in my lower abdomen and running a fever. The ER doctor was convinced right off the bat that I had a virus. I was pumped full of drugs and fluids but nothing was helping. Finally, after I had to raise my voice, she ordered a CT scan. Everything came back normal. At this point it was 2 a.m. and my husband and I were exhausted so we went home.

The next morning I made an appointment with my primary provider. She did an ultrasound which showed nothing significant. The pain was getting worse. I had goosebumps that would not go away and I was lethargic. Being my husband works long hours, my mother-in-law offered to take the kids for me that Wednesday so I could rest. When she brought them back, she called my husband and told him to meet us at the ER again, something wasn’t right. I thank my lucky stars that she did.

The few things I remember were being in the ER, getting a central line in my neck put in and then being rushed by ambulance to our local Trauma 1 hospital. When they went in, they discovered I had a tubal-ovarian abscess that had burst and had been leaking into my body. They removed my left tube and ovary. The surgeon told my husband I would be in the ICU for 24 hours. Well, I ended up going into septic shock. That 24 hours turned into 7 days in the ICU and 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital. My surgeon said I was one of those cases they scratched their heads about since nothing showed up off on the CT or ultrasound.

I really didn’t know what septic shock was. When I left the hospital, I had no idea the severity of what I had just went through. Finally, I did my research and it caused a huge amount of PTSD for me. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Every pain in my body made me feel like something else was going wrong. I was scared the doctors were missing something else. My platelet count spiked 3 times above the normal range, so I began to fear blood clots. I didn’t even want to be alone with my kids because I feared something would happen to me (they are only 7 and 4).

I came on this site and started to read the stories of the survivors. Some of them were very scary to read but also very enlightening. I had no idea this was such a huge health issue. I started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist and eventually started the school year a month late, but for a while there I thought I would never feel the same again. I had panic attacks that I had never had before. I constantly thought of and feared death. I also lost my passion for the things I enjoyed in life. I went down that rabbit hole of googling every pain I had. I went to the ER 6 times in 4 weeks out of fear. I was not me anymore.

I am here to share with you though that you may find light at the end of this tunnel. When I finally wasn’t the “sick” person anymore and went back to work full-time, I began to feel better. That feeling began to slowly fade away. I started doing yoga at our local YMCA and am back to working out like I could before all of this. I could be the mother and wife I used to be again. My labs have completely normalized, even my anemia. There are still side effects of course. I have trouble staying asleep at night and I have started to lose some of my hair (I normally don’t shed and it has been shedding by clumps), but my doctor said this is all normal and should go back to how it use to be. My therapist even said I may not need to see her anymore and my psychiatrist has transferred me back to my normal doctor.

I now know many people’s lives have been completely changed due to sepsis and many have lost their lives to it. But I did want to give hope to anyone who is going through this. I thought I would never get past the anxiety and fear, but it is possible. I am alive, I am thankful and I feel like me again.