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Robin Reyes

Survivor

A little about me… I’m a wife, a mom, a Catholic; I was a business owner of 21 years before getting sick. Always active, I love adventure, whether traveling the world or across our great USA, climbing up or skiing down a mountain. I’m a yogi, scuba diver, health nut, I love to cook, garden, craft. I cherish nature, a place of solace and adventure, to renew my soul, to admire and give thanks for God’s great creation. From my mountains to the sea… I love life!

Before getting sick, I’ve always been incredibly healthy, albeit run-down as most working mommas are.

I became sick mid-January 2020. I’d started that Tuesday morning out like most…. dropped the kids off at school, went to yoga class and then to work. By mid-day I felt like I was maybe fighting something, mentioning that to my coworkers. I went home and took my go to natural supplements when I feel like I’m coming down with something. I hardly ever get sick.

I woke up the next morning with the most unusual pain in my gums, and my teeth hurt. Simply biting into a piece of toast was painful. I just didn’t feel right. Thankfully I’d brought work home so could work from home. By lunch I decided I needed to call the doctor (which I hardly ever go to the doctor unless it’s for my well check). They couldn’t get me in until the next day, Thursday. I spiked a pretty high fever that afternoon and I very quickly got worse, developing aches and pains. I picked my kids up from school, took my daughter to gymnastics, but by the time it was time to pick her up from gymnastics, I couldn’t so my husband went.

By the next morning (Thursday) the pain in my gums and teeth was significantly worse my fever was very high, and all I wanted to do was sleep. By God’s grace I somehow made it to my doctor appointment, thinking as I drove, “I shouldn’t be driving.” They tested me for flu, and both were negative. However having flu-like symptoms, they prescribed Tamiflu. I fell asleep in the office before I was ready to drive home. Tamiflu upset my stomach, but I took a second dose per instructions, and went back to sleep. By the next day I felt quite nauseous and I was going to the bathroom literally about every hour. I had a very painful something on my bottom; I thought surely this must be a hemorrhoid? It was incredibly painful. I called my doctor but they had no availability until Monday. By Saturday I had full on diarrhea, on the hour, every hour. I had Giardia as a kid yet this was SOOO much worse. All I’d do was sleep in between bathroom runs. I hardly remember much else. My husband said I’d only eat oyster crackers and drink water/gatorade. I couldn’t stomach applesauce, as “everything tastes like paper”. I’d lost my taste. My fever was roaring, from 101-104, even alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol per my doctor’s instructions. I’d never been so sick, not ever.

By 5 am Monday morning, surely it’s late enough to start calling people for help. I called a pharmacist friend, my doctor, they called back and told me to go to the ER. We went to the ER and spent the day there, testing and treating me until a bed was available in ICU at the main hospital. I was in septic shock, yet what had caused it? I remember hardly anything.

Fast forward… I spent 13 days in ICU, 9 days on a respirator, I underwent multiple surgeries – including exploratory for initial infection. My blood cell counts were incredibly low – my WBC was lowest they’d ever seen, pointing to acute onset leukemia … the bone marrow test was negative. Thank God! Yet all my organs were shutting down. I had two bacteria in my blood… they never determined where the cross contamination occurred other than near my rectum. I was on 3 pressers for 3 days to keep me alive. Against all odds, by the grace of God, I came through. However my toes and fingers all became necrotic. That “pain” on my bottom became a huge wound from the bacteria, thus I had to get a temporary (3-6 mo minimum) ostomy. I spent nearly 2 months in hospital and rehab, unable to sit because of wound. I had 9 surgeries, wound vac changes, donor site, skin graft, etc. I had to relearn literally everything… from how to swallow, eat, use my left hand (right hand necrotic), walk, finally to sit, shower, dress, even bladder control after 2 months of having a catheter. I had hyperbaric treatments daily (when not in surgery) for wound healing, saving my left fingers and majority of my right hand and left foot. COVID was arriving, so there was an urgent push to get me home. I came home to my kids starting distance learning. I had home health nurses, PT, OT, weekly wound care and doctor appointments. I lost most of my hair. I was weak and out of shape.

Long story short, my doctors eventually became certain, not by tests, that I had started out with COVID – before it was known. (Sepsis and COVID-19) I had my ostomy successfully reversed in May. I ended up having 8 toes and 5 fingertips amputated, and I just had a modification on 3 of them, for a total of 12 surgeries in the last year. (Sepsis and Amputations) I’ve been doing daily hyperbaric treatments again since mid-November to close and heal the last of the wounds, and I’m just about there!

Septic shock nearly killed me. If we’d known the symptoms and I’d gone to the hospital sooner, perhaps it would have been a different story. God held me though, and He has a plan. I pray people learn from my experience, learn about sepsis, and receive my message of love, hope, and faith.

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