Sandy Matheny


Posted on March 9th, 2018

In April 2017, I was on vacation and felt too tired to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii. I was 52 years old and normally high energy. I knew something was wrong but had no idea how bad. I continued to feel bad for the next week, but I managed to work my shifts as a night nurse. I was not getting better, so I went to urgent care. They took a chest x-ray, gave me antibiotics and sent me home.  A couple days later, I had trouble catching my breath, had a temperature of 100.3 degrees, and a heart rate in the 90s. As a nurse I knew I had a positive sepsis screen, so I went to the ER and told then I was concerned about sepsis. The ER nurses agreed, took labs and called a code sepsis. Because we caught it quickly, my heart rate and blood pressure normalized in just a few hours. But a CT scan showed pericarditis, pericardial effusion and pleural effusions, so they kept me in the hospital for a few days. And that was just the beginning of my long road to recovery.

I spent the next two months on a leave of absence because I lacked the stamina to work 12-hour shifts. I went back to work in July on day shift and was frustrated with how weak I still was. But I was more frustrated with my brain fog – I was not as sharp as I used to be. I spent my free time following up with cardiologists and pulmonologists and also training, physically and mentally, so I could get back to normal.

It’s been almost a year since my code sepsis, and I’m at about 80% of my normal self. I’m still on anti-inflammatories to control the pericarditis. I have a new diagnosis of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and a new diagnosis of high cholesterol. With the heart problems, I decided to lose weight to reduce the amount of work my heart has to do, and I am closer to a normal BMI of 27, down from 32. I have a FitBit to monitor my heart rate and activity level so I can track how I’m doing. It also monitors my sleep, which is essential for healing.

I will never know what caused my sepsis. But I do know that sepsis is an inflammatory response and that post-sepsis syndrome is real. I monitor my recovery like I used to track my training when I was an elite athlete in my 20s. (Sepsis and Post-Sepsis Syndrome)  And I’m managing my health with a significant diet change. I’m choosing healthier foods that are low on the glycemic index and low on the inflammatory index. And I’m getting a little bit better every day.