Mindy Allen


My name is Mindy, and I am 33 years old. I am a mother, a wife, and a nurse. When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with sepsis related to a kidney infection. The organism identified as the source of the infection was pseudomonas aeruginosa. Several days prior to the onset of my infection, I had gone kayaking in a local river and we had stopped midway through the day to swim. It was summertime and extremely hot and humid. The warm river water served as an easy reservoir for dangerous bacteria.

My symptoms began like any other bladder infection I had in the past. (Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections) I experienced painful urination and frequency. I called my urologist, and they ordered a urine culture. However, I rapidly began to feel much worse. I spiked a high fever (103-104 degrees F) that could not be reduced by Tylenol or Advil. I experienced horrific back pain, nausea, and vomiting. My mom consulted the urologist on call at the time and they determined it was best for me to come to the main pediatric hospital for evaluation.

Once at the hospital, the medical team began to act very quickly, ordering a lot of testing and they started me on IV antibiotics and placed a Foley catheter. For days, I had no appetite and slept more than 20 hours per day. Waking up felt impossible and I remember hearing the doctors whispering to my mom that the infection I was fighting could be deadly if the right antibiotic(s) were not determined “in time.” More than two years before this infection, I had been in a car accident that left me needing a bladder reconstruction and urinary diversion. The car accident I survived was serious and led to multiple major surgeries, 6 weeks in the hospital, and more than a year of recovery at home. However, I remember my mom recounting my story to a doctor during that hospital stay to convince them and possibly herself that I was a survivor and would beat the odds again. I also remember hearing the doctor’s response to my mom’s words and the fear that it brought, but being too tired to open my eyes and assure them that I would win this round as well.

I remember falling back into a sleep so deep that waking was unfathomable. I do not remember the exact words I heard the doctor say but the gist of his response was that I was septic and the infection I was fighting was more likely to kill me than anything I had faced before, and this was certainly not my first lesson of mortality. This infection brought consequences of an extended hospital stay lasting more than a week and the necessity of a PICC line once home to continue the only antibiotic the infection had responded to, gentamicin. This would be my first of several PICC lines as I would acquire several antibiotic resistant infections in the years following. (Sepsis and Antimicrobial Resistance) I would survive again. I would recover and go home. I would again find a new normal and fall into step with my peers as we looked forward to milestones such as prom, graduation, and starting college. However, this infection would become a part of my shadow. It would slither into the light every time a specialist looked at my kidneys and noted significant scarring to my right kidney. It would crawl into a conversation with my provider when we needed to determine the best treatment plan for a urinary tract infection, a diagnosis which would henceforth be coupled with the word “complicated.” This infection would add to my “why” for becoming a nurse. I would memorize its many faces and learn to recognize its disguises to protect my patients. I would always remember that sepsis is a robber of vitality, and this robber recognizes everyone as a potential victim.

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