Every 2 minutes someone in this world dies from sepsis. More than from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. I am a sepsis survivor, and I will never be the same person I was before I became septic and was hours from death. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth) It was November 26th 2017, I was 3 weeks postpartum and I had been suffering from mastitis for about 10 days. I knew something wasn’t right, as my heartbeat was racing a million miles per minute, and body ached with pain all over. I have a strong pain tolerance, and was able to give birth naturally twice, so when I told my husband my pain level was at an 8, that was saying A LOT.
I called my doctor 3 days before I became septic and was able to speak to her on-call doctor. I told her that I had finished my dose of antibiotics that they had me on for the mastitis, and that I still had a fever and my breast was still in severe pain. I told her I thought that the antibiotics did not work to cure my infection. Her response to me was what kept me from going to the hospital sooner. Her words exactly were “It is a very rare case that the antibiotics don’t work for mastitis, so you probably just have a clogged milk duct which can imitate mastitis symptoms.” She told me I should make an appointment to go see a lactation consultant, and that the baby’s latch is most likely what was causing the pain. I listened to her advice, and pumped and fed through the pain for the next 3 days, relentlessly and on the dot to make sure that the infection was in fact gone. The evening of November 26th, I couldn’t take it anymore, and finally went to the emergency room. I sat in the waiting room as my body trembled and shook for 4 hours, with my husband, a restless toddller, and a newborn by my side.
I watched every single person in the waiting room get to go back and be treated before me, as if their cases were more urgent than mine. I watched a man that walked in hours after me with a broken finger, get to go back and be seen. I walked up to the receptionist 10 minutes before I was taken back to a room, and asked her if I was next, and her response to me was “OH, it looks like you are up next, you are the last one to get a room tonight” I was able to finally be taken back and be seen after that 4 hours. (Early goal directed therapy completed within the first 6 hours of sepsis recognition significantly decreases the risk of hospital mortality.) I was shaking so bad that a nice man brought me a warm blanket, but as soon as the nurse took my temperature, she ripped the blanket right off me and said “I’m sorry but your temperature is 105.4 we need to leave this off., she also noticed that I had a tachycardic heart rate of 140 bpm. From then on, they realized something wasn’t right and were very urgent on getting my blood drawn and taking the necessary measures. I remember trembling so much that I could not stay still for the blood draw. I had to literally grasp my hand around the phlebotomist’s wrist to keep my arm still enough for him to draw. The sweet nurse I had, never left my side and I remember her words to me: ” You are so strong, you are one of the strongest people I have ever seen.” “Stay strong, your husband and your kids need you. He can’t do it alone.” She was so comforting, trying to tell me that everything will be ok, but the look on her face was like she had just seen the grim reaper. She kept telling my husband, “She’s going to be ok,” trying to keep us at ease.
My husband asked what time we would be able to go home as it was close to midnight and we had two sleepy kids. The nurse told us we would not be going home anytime soon. The doctor finally came in and told me my body was septic and my white blood cell count was extremely high. Knowing the severity of sepsis, I immediately asked her if I was going to die. She couldn’t give me a sure answer obviously, but she said that sometimes sepsis patients will get worse before they get better. I had never been so scared in my life, the doctor left the room and I burst into tears.
My husband asked me why I was crying, and I told him that I had blood poisoning and that I could possibly die from it. It was then that everything hit me. My kids might have to grow up without a mother, I was so young, 24 years old and wasn’t ready for this. I did have a strange sense of peace knowing that there was nothing I could do about it, I realized then, how short and fragile life is, and when it’s over, it is over. My phone had 2 percent battery, so I texted my mom and told her I loved her, I was septic and didn’t know if I was going to be ok. How I did this? I don’t know. I was so sick that I could barely walk, focus, concentrate, and my vision was blurry. My body ached all over.
They admitted me to the step-down unit from the ICU, and my fever didn’t break until 2 full days after I was admitted when my body started responding to the constant IVs I was hooked to. It was that day that my heart rate also returned to normal. I remember waking up in a huge pool of sweat when my fever broke and I saw that as a good sign. Thank the lord I was released after almost a week of being there. I was able to go home and finish oral antibiotics. I will never forget the feeling as they pushed me out to my car in a wheelchair, I felt like I had just conquered the world. I literally felt like I had just come back from the dead. I know I am a stronger person now than I ever have been.
Recovery was hard, especially with having a newborn in the house, and I still have days where my energy is zapped, and have never felt so drained in my life, but I thank god everyday that I am still here and can continue to raise my family. I always tell myself it could have been worse, I am grateful to still have all of my organs, limbs and fingers…………. ps..you know your body better than anyone else, listen to your instincts because doctors aren’t always right. (in the case of my on-call) I am so beyond grateful that I am a sepsis survivor.