Mark Judge

Survivor

I want to focus my statement on not being a sepsis zombie for life and help other sepsis survivors achieve the same. I’m writing a book on this to get the message out. There is much effort out there to prevent and treat sepsis, which I applaud, but there is very limited help to assist and heal sepsis survivors. The bacteria and inflammation does so much damage to the body and organs. Help me not be a sepsis zombie forever is my relentless mantra and book title.

I am five years out from coming so close to dying from septic shock. I was in my mid-forties when it stole my health and nearly took my life. Prior to getting an infection, I was at the gym every day. My doctors and cardiologist call me lucky and named me Lazarus for miraculously rising from the dead. I was in and out of the ER after my stay in intensive care like a yo-yo with all the classic post sepsis symptoms – low blood pressure, ongoing infection, weak lungs, cloudy thinking, digestive challenges, bloating, damaged heart, affected kidneys, weak legs, no muscle strength. I had a few close calls from dying multiple times during that period. The doctors were never really sure on the cause of the infection – they thought either bacteria entered my body via the lung or through a urinary tract infection, but I did not hold any history of urinary tract infections so they did not establish a cause.

I am so grateful for surviving sepsis as I am very aware that many do not. I am very lucky to still be here. I am lucky to be with my family. They mean the world to me and I love them dearly. They deserve a special reward for looking after me and dealing with a sepsis survivor. I want to help survivors like me who have a second chance at life to make the most out of their second chance.

My urologist and the intensive care doctor told me I would feel pretty bad for a year. They were wrong. Try three to four years, as a more accurate projection. Up to three years I had trouble walking around the shopping center for longer than 30 minutes before I had to sit down. Legs would start to ache and became weak. Body wide fatigue and lack of physical ability haunted me for over three years. Post-traumatic stress syndrome became a daily friend. (Sepsis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) I refer to that lingering visitor as the friend who it taught me a lot. Like most friends, it had a season and a reason. Come the end of the third year I did not want to be a sepsis zombie any more. We did a lot of research on the impact of sepsis on cells and organs. I started to take targeted supplements that might help according to the research and university studies. Most of the research is non-conclusive of course but hints at potential road maps and gives you a rough compass.

I changed my diet which greatly helped my recovery. Five years out I am not totally healed yet but time, supplements, and diet changes have had an amazing difference. After a five year relentless pursuit of regaining my health I am in the gym several days a week with a goal to achieve six straight days a week. It’s up and down. It will take time and more patience. I am still haunted with health issues. No question, I can attest that sepsis is an awful disease to live with. No one can really help you. I wish there was a designated clinic out there, somewhere, that specialized in sepsis survivors. I am not sure if sepsis can ever be totally prevented. Clearly the number of sepsis cases can be reduced and proactive medical intervention will save lives and diminish the severity of damage in surviving patients. My heart goes out to those who have lost their lives and to their loved ones left behind who live with that loss. My heart also wishes there was a cure for survivors. This awful, rapid and silent killer we call sepsis is so deadly and yet mysterious. Sepsis takes so much from us. I ask, what can I give when sepsis takes? Maybe my five years of experience can be something I can give to help others? I just don’t know how to really help? I have determined to write my story to start.

The doctors were never really sure on cause of the infection – they thought either bacteria entered my body via the lung or through an urinary tract infection, but I did not hold any history of urinary tract infections so they did not establish a cause. I awoke one morning with flu like symptoms, and waited too long to go to the hospital, thinking it was flu. Maybe that saved my life – better than going in early and being send home. Then again waiting too long was causal to septic shock – not sure if we did the right thing, being misdiagnosed and sent home to die is terrible – so we avoided that – staying home to long and going into septic shock but living – and taking 5 years to rehabilitate is so hard but yet I am alive.  I will take life and a second chance.