I first learned about sepsis this spring, when it almost killed me. When people ask about my absence from work and I say “double pneumonia and sepsis,” they say “what is sepsis?” I think to myself, “I hope you never really know.” It has taken everything from me…everything. Even my insurers and disability providers haven’t a clue the toll… (Sepsis and Pneumonia)
I am a 44-year-old female. On all accounts very healthy – a letter carrier in a harsh Canadian climate for 18 years. Walking 8-10 miles a day, carrying mail up and down stairs, through blizzards…you get strong and healthy and you think there is nothing you can’t do. When you get sick or injured, you are back on the job as fast as possible, because if you aren’t, you are viewed by your co-workers as weak, or worse yet, faking.
I had a chest cold for a couple of weeks. In my profession, you “walk it off.” Didn’t miss a day. Then I called in sick on Wed, May 23. I went to local hospital. Chest x-rays and blood work was clear. Pain they said must be pulled muscle…rest for the rest of the week and go back. By that Sat, I put on PJs, took out my contacts….went back to hospital. You know, I somehow knew I wasn’t going to get out of there any time soon. I was diagnosed with double pneumonia and sepsis.
I remember hallucinations…clowns, mostly. I remember crying for my Mommy….the nurses securing my arms to the bed…a tropical vacation…a code blue being called and that meaning a psychopath was running through slicing people up…I remember my coma…being detached from my body, yet remaining with it at the same time…I remember drowning…and deciding it was too hard and I COULD just let go…no more pain…I remember fear…unspeakable fear, because that was a decision to die…I remember a choice that I had the luxury to make…and I fought, and I won that battle.
When I awoke I found out I’d been there 9 days, had a central line, intubation, chest tube, feeding tube, catheters, diapers….when I got home, counted 17 holes in my right arm alone. Can’t remember the week prior to hospital…only the last two days I was there, for a total of 2 weeks. I remember being so weak that I had to ring the nurse to fix my bedding because my feet felt cold…and I remember the humiliation of not being able to get up and go to the bathroom. The nurses assured me it was their job to clean me up and that I should not be ashamed. I was. Last night there, with only 2 tubes left to tangle with, I made sure I hobbled myself over to the potty, let there be no doubt about that.
So…my physical body lived. I feel lucky. Now what do I do? Everything has changed. I have nightmares, trouble sleeping, tried and failed at returning to work….and no mulling it over has given me a reason why? Why can’t I go back to my life? Can someone tell me….why is it so hard. It’s over for my family, for my friends…why isn’t it over for me?