On August 3rd, 2021, I was admitted to the hospital with a breakthrough case of Covid-19. (Sepsis and COVID-19) I was fully vaccinated six months prior. My CT scan showed ground glass opacities in my right lower lung. I was blessed that my oxygen saturation was within normal limits. I was in the hospital for three weeks. Upon my discharge on 8/23/21, I stayed with a dear friend for approximately two weeks. Because of malnutrition and Covid, I believe, I was immunocompromised. I had leukopenia, low neutrophil and absolute neutrophil counts, and I was anemic. (Sepsis and Impaired Immune System)
The bacteria that caused my septic shock was a gram negative rod – Serratia Marcescens. According to the Journal of Diagnostic and Statistical Research, Serratia Marcescens is “a rare opportunistic nosocomial pathogen.” The journal also states that “the crude mortality in the nosocomial blood stream infections which are caused by Serratia is 26%.”
On the evening of 9/8/21, I developed a fever of 103.5F. That was the start of my severe sepsis, which ultimately lead to septic shock. I had a central line for TPN, fluids, and medications due to a gastrovascular disorder. I kept this line infection free for 18 months. (Sepsis and Septic Shock, Sepsis and Invasive Devices)
Unfortunately, Covid and malnutrition rendered me incapable of fighting the infection that usually does not result in bacteremia in healthy individuals.
On 9/9/21 at approximately 3pm, I was exhausted, difficult to rouse, my legs were weak, and I kept falling. I also began to get confused. I didn’t know that these were all signs of sepsis. I took my temperature orally, and the thermometer read 106.9F. I called 911 and immediately apologized for being so confused. They took my temperature, and their thermometer read 107F. The paramedics put in multiple peripheral lines, gave me oxygen, and started fluids. My heart rate and blood pressure were both in the 150’s, and my respiratory rate was elevated.
When I arrived in the ER I had alternating moments of being alert and oriented and severe delirium. My blood pressure plummeted to the 70s/30s, blood cultures were taken centrally and peripherally, and a lumbar puncture, head, and abdominal CT were performed to find the source of the infection. I was started on vasopressors, multiple antibiotics, and admitted to the ICU.
On my third day in the ICU, I began to feel intense pain and called for the RN. When she came in, I vomited pink-tinged sputum and immediately began to have difficulty breathing. My blood pressure plummeted to the 60s/30s, and my oxygen saturation, which usually reads between 95%-100% in a healthy adult, plummeted to the 60s. I aspirated and needed to be intubated. I later learned that I developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) with hypoxia. (Sepsis and ARDS) After a little over 24hrs sedated and on mechanical ventilation, I was extubated and started on BIPAP. My cultures grew out Serratia Marcescens in all 4 bottles after six hours.
My central line was pulled as that was found to be the source of infection, and the antibiotics were changed once sensitivity testing was done. I remained in the ICU for one week. I was in heart and lung failure and had a life-threatening infection. I was dependent on oxygen, blood products, and diuretics to dry out my lungs, and I became insulin dependent due to stress hyperglycemia. In order to monitor my blood pressure 24/7 I had an arterial line, and I was on norepinephrine and steroids to keep my mean arterial pressure above 65. I needed a foley catheter to urinate, a triple lumen central line for labs, pain management, and parenteral nutrition. I had multiple peripheral lines for antibiotics and fluid resuscitation. I was moved from the surgical ICU to the medical ICU and became absolutely exhausted just walking a short loop around the unit with a walker. Despite living with chronic illnesses, I was 35 years-old when I went into septic shock and was in relatively good health all things considered. Every time I tried to talk, my oxygen would drop and my respiratory rate would increase despite being on 4L of oxygen via nasal cannula.
After a week in the intensive care unit I was moved to the floor to continue my recovery. Healing was not linear. It was a rollercoaster ride that still has not come to a full stop.
I was discharged from the hospital on October 2nd after a total of 24 days inpatient. I was not informed that after the initial crisis had subsided there might be lingering effects. Today, I have been out of the hospital just over four months. I am still deconditioned, struggle with brain fog, short term memory loss, and word finding. I have difficulty falling and staying asleep, I experience muscle and joint pain, and I am struggling with both depression and PTSD symptoms. (Sepsis and PTSD)
I am forever grateful for the Sepsis Alliance because they have educated me about Post Sepsis Syndrome, Post ICU Syndrome, and have helped me realize that I am not alone. It is my hope to use my voice and lived experiences to inform others about the warning signs of sepsis and to educate others about the long-term effects of surviving severe sepsis and septic shock.
One of my favorite quotes by John Mark Green states: “You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.” I hope to take my second chance at life and shine a light on the life-altering effects of sepsis. This journey is a tough one, but I am holding on to hope and have faith that healing is not only possible but probable. “While there is life, there is hope.” Hold On Pain Ends!
*In addition to the Sepsis Alliance, I want to take a moment to thank my dear friend Jessica, who is also a Sepsis Survivor, for her unwavering love and support. Without the dedication love and support of my dear friends, (Carrie, Felicia, Kelsey, Richelle, Sara, Stacey, Vanessa, and Wanda), my supportive and loving Rabbi Debra Kassoff, and extraordinary medical team at the hospital in Worcester, MA, I would not be here today.
My family has kindly and lovingly reopened the doors of my childhood home to give me a clean, quiet place to rest and recover. Thank you for your love and unconditional support. I love you all more than words can say.
To Jennifer, thank you for inviting me to join the weekly Women’s Group no matter the circumstances. I looked forward to that supportive, held space every Wednesday. It was a safe place to authentically share my feelings.
Finally, to my therapist, Leann. Thank you for your skill, dedication, empathy and genuine care. Hearing your voice every day of my admission grounded me in ways I am incapable of conveying. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.