Michelle G.

Survivor

Posted on October 26th, 2018

My name is Michelle, I am a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom and I know so many parents like me who always put their kids first. It’s hard not to when you have little ones at home and are constantly tending to their needs. My two kids; Ariana, 8 yrs old and Ollie, 2 yrs old are my life and unfortunately when I got sick I did not realize that by neglecting my own needs I was jeopardizing my life.

This past July 30th my husband, AJ , brought me to the ER where I was diagnosed with septic shock. I had been having increasing stomach pain for about 3 weeks. I convinced myself it was acid reflux, or maybe a kidney stone or cyst because I didn’t want to go be seen. I made every excuse because I’ve always felt that as a mom I need to “suck it up” and keep going- the kids come first.

July 29th I was with my in-laws and almost passed out. My husband AJ was becoming more concerned about my health as he was seeing red flags that I was ignoring. Since my son was born in 2016 I have had high blood pressure that I monitor so we have a blood pressure machine at home, which kept giving me low readings for a couple of days- definitely not normal for me. The Sunday night before I went to the hospital, the pain in my stomach/left side became unbearable and I had fever tremors all night. I felt restless, I kept walking around my house trying to find a spot and position I could be comfortable with. I also started to become a bit delirious, I kind of felt like I was in between asleep and awake, very foggy.

Monday morning AJ reluctantly left for work and asked me to call him after I really woke up and took my blood pressure. I called AJ about an hour later with my blood pressure reading; it was 105/67 with a pulse of 113, normal for me at that point was 140/93… honestly this should have shaken me but by then I wasn’t understanding much of what was happening around me. My husband told me he was leaving work and coming to take me to the ER.

My mom came over to watch the kids and AJ rushed me out the door.
When we arrived at the hospital I was asked for a urine sample, which was a bizarre orange/red color and cloudy. When I handed it to the nurse she started quickly taking my vitals and I was in a bed in no time.

Amidst the action of nurses, AJ was watching the monitors saying “your bp keeps going down” … he seemed nervous, and on edge which is not his usual personality. I barely registered this because I just wanted my teeth to stop chattering- the fever/infection was causing awful tremors, I felt so cold and the chattering of my teeth hurt, it was also near impossible to take a deep breath because each time it felt as if I was being stabbed in my back/left side.

The number of nurses, IVs and amount of blood drawn was alarming, they put an IV line in each arm, when we asked why the nurse said the second line was if I needed a blood transfusion or if they needed to “flood me with fluids fast”. As it was they were already using an IV pump and bag after bag of fluid.

It was not long before we started to see doctors… in summary we were told that I was very sick, I was going to be admitted to the hospital and that my diagnosis at that point was “septic shock’ also known as septicemia”… I had NO idea what septicemia meant!

We were told that I had likely been sick for awhile but because I ignored it my blood was infected and my body was overwhelmed and could not keep up with the infection. Infected blood, I reflected on later, meant that my heart, my brain, my lungs etc. were infected, I had an infected body, all my insides.

Before I was brought upstairs, they determined that I did have a kidney stone that likely had gotten stuck, starting an infection in my kidneys, and while the stone was passed sometime in the previous weeks of pain the infection persisted, and I ignored it. (Sepsis and Kidney Stones)

I was told that I could die from this infection and that I was looking forward to inpatient for at least a few days, possibly in the ICU. Luckily for me I was admitted to the PCU (a step down from ICU)… and the treatment continued, 2 IV antibiotics until the blood culture returned, more fluid, magnesium, potassium, iron, heart monitors added… I was a mess. I wasn’t even allowed to get up to pee.

I spent 4 days in the hospital. Thankfully my husband was able to take the time off of work especially since the night I came home I had to wake him three times to help me. I needed a babysitter 24/7 for at least a week, I was on strong antibiotics for an additional 2 weeks and it was September 4, 2018, that my blood work finally cleared me- the infection is officially gone. It took about 6 weeks to get to this point.

It wasn’t until I finished the antibiotics that some of the “fogginess” in my brain started to clear and I became truly aware of the danger I had been in. Septic shock death rates are as high as 50%!! I almost died , basically because I ignored a kidney infection.

The physical, emotional and psychological toll this has taken can’t really be described. Currently I am still emotionally sensitive and equally irritable, I feel my brain hasn’t recovered fully which is the most frustrating part of this currently. (Sepsis and Post-Sepsis Syndrome)

Without AJ and my mom and our families’ support and help through this I don’t know where I’d be. I’m hoping and praying that I 100% recover soon. I vaguely remembered the doctors talking to my husband about “time”… that I was lucky he brought me in because what I didn’t know then was that literally every hour that passed while I was in septic shock there was a greater chance that I could have died at home, my two beautiful children could have witnessed the death of their mother had my husband not rushed home from work to take me to the ER when he realized something was very wrong with me.

Since coming home I have been researching sepsis and have joined a few online forums to connect with other sepsis survivors. I can not believe that in 2018, with all the available technology, that there is so many people who haven’t heard of sepsis, which is among the leading causes of death in US hospitals!! I hope to help spread awareness about sepsis, and about the possible long term effects.

I am almost 3 months post sepsis and physically, for the most part, I feel really good. Psychologically I still have some healing to do. I have less patience than I used to, I am more emotional, I anger easily, I am very forgetful and I still deal with some brain “fogginess”. I used to pride myself on my educational achievements, my intelligence, sense of humor and parenting techniques… now I feel that I lack in all those categories.
I am actively seeking professional opinion on cognitive issues for sepsis survivors and I just started counseling with a new clinician who can hopefully help me learn to de-stress and to deal with some of the ongoing fears related to Sepsis, such as a reoccurrence.

I am proud of my recovery and I continue to learn how to be a healthier me, physically and mentally. My husband, my kids and my mother are my greatest supporters and I appreciate them every minute of everyday.