Marie-Maxime B.

Survivor

I am a sepsis survivor. Let me tell you my story.

My name is Marie-Maxime B., a 41 year old mother of two. I was exclusively breastfeeding my thirteen month old baby girl when I started having pain in my left nipple for about three days. It appeared that I had a milk blister. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth)

On the third day, excruciating pain in the same breast woke me up in the middle of the night, followed shortly by fever. By mid-morning, it felt like I was fighting a bad flu. I was able to control my fever with acetaminophen, and went to see my doctor that afternoon. Having arrived at the clinic, I took the stairs to the second floor as I always do. As I was walking up I felt so weak, and the final step took an eternity. I gathered all my strength to make it to the front desk, stopping a couple times to sit down along the way. I was given a bed right away and shortly after, I vomited many times. My blood pressure was extremely low, so the doctors made the decision to send me to the nearest hospital by ambulance. At the hospital, I was quickly given fluid resuscitation, which helped improve my blood pressure. It took a few more hours for the emergency staff to determine that I had sepsis, leading to septic shock – all stemming from a baseball size abscess in my breast. After 24 hours of observation, fluid replacement, and antibiotics, it was determined that I was stable enough to be transferred to the intensive care unit.

Stable means I’m good to go, right? Why the ICU? I had no idea that the aftermath of septic shock is multiple organ failure. The outcome is affected by how quickly the team gets the right treatment going and how the body responds to it. I needed the team of doctors and continual observation and treatment to deal with every issue that arose. In no time, I was in the beginning stages of organ failure. Substantial damage affected my kidneys, liver, and lungs.

They were able to find out that I was fighting an invasive Streptococcal A blood infection. (Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus) I vaguely knew what sepsis was when I was admitted to the hospital. I quickly found out that a survival rate of around 50% is associated with sepsis. Being that I was in septic shock when I arrived at the hospital, I was literally hours from dying. In addition to multiple organ failure, I had impetigo on my skin, and developed an aspiration pneumonia from all the vomiting that happened. I stayed in the ICU for almost a week. After day 4 there was a substantial improvement in my blood markers and my vitals, and I was able to go home after day 6. Over a month of antibiotics and many doctor visits and tests followed.

I was so lucky. My organs recovered fully. I was spared from amputations, which is common after surviving a septic shock. What saved me was my fast visit to the doctor, no hesitation in the transfer to the nearest hospital, my condition being properly identified, and receiving treatment in a timely matter. Unfortunately, not everyone with sepsis receives fast treatment or the right diagnosis. It’s imperative that people recognize the early signs, so awareness is key. Know your body. Seeking immediate care is the most important factor. It saved my life.

I am still processing what happened. My energy levels are not what they used to be. A fear of getting sepsis again is omnipresent. The course of my life has been changed forever as well as having a new outlook. Living in the moment is the ONLY way to go and the “NOW” is the only guarantee we have.