On Sunday, November 24 of 2013, I woke up at 5 AM with a severe fever, chills, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, and sore throat. The night before I’d started to feel ill, but nothing like this. As a mom of five kids (aged 1-11), who had been passing around the flu and strep throat, I could have seen this coming. (Sepsis and Strep Throat) But moms don’t get sick days, right? Usually, I push through; however, this was different. I sent the clan to church with my husband, promising to stay in bed and rest so I’d be better by the afternoon. But that was a lie. I had never felt so sick! Turns out, I had never been this sick…
After church, my two oldest kids, 11 and 8, raced up the stairs to my bedroom, to see who could tattle first. They found me unconscious and unresponsive, gasping for air, and pale blue in color. My dear husband performed CPR while talking to EMTs on the phone until they arrived. A neighbor grabbed the kids and took them to her house.
The paramedics whisked me away, and they kept me alive on that ambulance ride to the ER. Once there, I was diagnosed with the flu, strep, and pneumonia, which quickly developed into sepsis. Then septic shock. My prognosis was grim. (Sepsis and Influenza, Sepsis and Pneumonia)
Even after I survived a risky transfer to a larger medical center, my condition continued to worsen. One by one, my organs failed. I was ventilated, placed into a medically induced coma. My lungs were so saturated with fluid that they couldn’t retain oxygen, and my blood pressure kept dropping. I was given very powerful, even experimental, blood pressure medications. I was on full dialysis. I had a feeding tube and a tracheotomy. As a last-ditch effort, I was suspended upside down and rotated in a rotoprone bed in hopes it would help drain my lungs.
It worked. Slowly, my lungs began to drain and my oxygen levels increased. Seemingly at once, my organs began to recover. I started to breathe on my own and slowly, over the course of several days, they brought me out of the coma! A miracle! Thank God for modern medicine and for the amazing doctors and nurses. Thank God for my devoted husband who never gave up on me. Thank God for my family and friends and community. Thank God for answering prayers. Thank God.
However, the powerful medications and treatments that saved my organs pulled the blood, oxygen, and nutrients from my limbs. My hands and feet essentially died – they shriveled, blackened, and became necrotic. Surgeons were forced to amputate. After 100 days, six different hospitals, one quadruple amputation surgery, and a miracle, I survived.
Today I live as a triple amputee, with my remaining foot missing the toes and part of my heel. (Sepsis and Amputations) I am learning to use amazing prosthetics, which are helping me live a fairly “normal” life. I am able to parent my five children – driving them to their various activities, signing their reading logs, volunteering at their schools, grocery shopping, and potty-training the little one. I have even been able to return to teaching group exercise classes at the local YMCA. I am also beginning a career in motivational, faith-building speaking.
Check out my website and blog. Reach out to me; I would love to build relationships within the sepsis community. Thank you for reading my story.