Noelle L.

Survivor

For anyone who has gone through something as traumatic as this, it’s almost impossible to make a long story a short one, but I will try. To this day retelling my story leaves me feeling anxious and uncomfortable, almost to the point that I wish I hadn’t spoke about it. But I continue on hoping that one day what I have shared may help save a life.

5 years ago, on May 1st, I delivered a 6lb 1oz baby at 34 weeks in a Cardiac OR at one of our nation’s top hospitals. I was born with a heart valve defect and with the placenta issues I had during my pregnancy, doctors were afraid my heart wouldn’t be able to handle the blood loss. It was a long, involved procedure, and a week later I was finally able to go home while my little one stayed behind in the NICU. Not long after, which was right after my birthday and Mother’s Day, I wound up in the ER at the hospital where I worked as a tech. I had bilateral pneumonia, a fever of almost 105*F, BP 80/50, heart rate in the 160s. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth, Sepsis and Pneumonia) Over the next 36 hours I continued to worsen, with no answers as to what was going on with me. It got to the point where I was ready to “check out.” I told the nurses “put me to sleep and don’t wake me up again.” I had nothing left in me to fight anymore. That is how sick you are when you have sepsis.

Sepsis had turned into septic shock and all my organs had started shutting down. My OB was called in to see me in ICU and when he pressed down over my uterus I almost levitated off the table. From then on, I don’t remember much. I was put into a medically induced coma, rushed off for emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. I was then life-flighted back to the hospital where I delivered. My family was told to be prepared for the worst. I woke up the following week, intubated and hands tied to the bed so I couldn’t pull out the tubes. Once I could breathe on my own, they removed them. The pathology report showed retained placenta in my uterus after my C-section was the source of the infection. At the end of May, we finally got to come home, this time together.

My life has changed forever in so many ways. I still need my heart valve replaced, sooner than later, but I’ll get through that too. I am very lucky to be a survivor with as long as it took to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. What you can’t see when someone survives something this traumatic is the “damage” it does to them on the inside. (Sepsis and Post-Sepsis Syndrome) It took some time to learn how to be “normal” again, to not be afraid to go out into the world, or scared that I might die, or something horrific happen to me or my children. I had laid in a hospital bed, being treated by people I knew, people that were doing everything they could, but I still knew I was dying. I am alive today and it is a miracle. Simple things like eating, brushing my teeth, walking, were all a struggle at the beginning of my recovery.

My newborn was in the NICU and she needed me, so it took everything I had but I got stronger, slowly, but for her. I had some excellent nurses who took care of me including my mom who is an RN. Thank God she was with me and was there to call the ambulance (not to forget to mention my OB that ultimately saved my life). I have been through a lot in my life, like so many people have, but this brush with death became a pay it forward mission for me. I am proud to say I went to nursing school and became an LPN and am now working, and in school finishing my RN. My daughter is a happy, healthy, smart, soon to be 5-year-old. My goal is to raise awareness about sepsis and be there for people when they are sick, just like my nurses and doctors were for me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am a sepsis shock survivor and I am thriving because I refuse to let it beat me.