Sarah Cowles


Sarah started her February 16, Friday morning babysitting her youngest grandson for a few hours while my sister had to work. She noticed her stomach was upset a little bit throughout the day. She was familiar with stomach issues and took medication to help with nausea. She was living with diabetes, kidney disease, a blood clotting disorder, and more. She managed well for a 58-year-old woman and joked about her owning her own pharmacy.

That afternoon, we decided  to order a pizza since there was a snow storm. By 7pm when it arrived, she suddenly started to vomit very harshly but refused to let me call anybody saying she was just very upset at her stomach. She struggled quite a while, going back and forth to the bathroom which ended the night in just dry heaves until she fell asleep. She still reassured me she was fine, and she promised. I sat with her bedside, watching her until I got tired and fell asleep.

I woke up the next day, the 17th around 2pm and peered into the room next to mine to find my mother snoring, with her arms above her head. I thought that was odd since she was usually awake by 9am but she was breathing, and figured she was exhausted from the night prior. 30 minutes later, a loud thud came from the room. I found her on the floor gasping for air, pouring sweat, clammy skin and bluish around her mouth. I supported her trying to keep her awake and screamed for my boyfriend to call 911. She was in and out of consciousness, and quickly declining. She seemed to be hyperventilating, and I was prepared  to do whatever I could to save my mother, my best friend, and the person I spent every day with.

When the first responders got to my apartment, they could not get a BP reading on her, and a O2 reading of 72!  I held the respirator against her face begging her to take deep breaths, as they were preparing to move her from the crowded area we were in to the awaiting ambulance. She was mostly unconscious at this point. The minutes between the EMTs moving her from my 2-story upstairs apartment outside seemed like too many. The last words that she ever spoke were, “I’m tired” as she tried hard to stay awake through these moments which will live with me forever.

My sister, niece and I raced to be with her. Once we arrived at the emergency room, they took us to a family waiting area where it seemed we waited forever. Finally after a few hours we were greeted by the emergency room doctor. His working diagnosis was sepsis, with a couple spots of pneumonia. He predicted sepsis started from a UTI, but later it was said pneumonia instead. (Sepsis and Pneumonia, Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections) They placed her into a medically induced coma, intubated and a care plan was made. We were able to see her for a few minutes before they moved her upstairs to an ICU room. I prayed that she make it through this, but feared the worst. The hospital had a no overnight visitor policy, and we had to leave not knowing what the next moments held for our family. We left our contact information and we were reassured if any drastic change happened we were to be contacted.  I arrived back at the hospital the next morning being greeted by an ICU nephrologist updating us that her kidneys had taken a major hit from the sepsis, and in almost complete failure. The best chance of her improvement would be to start dialysis care, in hopes the kidneys start to work enough to let the antibiotics  work. We signed to do so with no hesitation.

We took turns in and out of her room, all day in hopes of a miracle. In all the moments spent with her in that ICU room, there was little to nothing different other than a steady decrease in her blood pressure. That next morning, the 3rd day of her admission,  were greeted with even more devastating news that overnight her condition got worse.  There was a significant struggle to keep her BP at a minimum, even with 3 medications. She was in multi-organ failure, and breathing almost completely by the intubation with no sign of life left in her anywhere. She started to mottle on her stomach and her limbs were very warm. She was placed on ice blankets to get her fever down, but nothing the doctors were doing seemed to have improved her quality of life. We were told to stay with her, for the prognosis was not looking great.

We were asked to decide on a DNR because she was declining fast and would end up in a code soon. The machines just constantly beeped, with a reading lower every time. Her eyes began to open up some, but there was no sign of life in them anymore. We decided it was best to get her comfortable, take machines off and let her rest. It was the right thing to do, and we knew it. I sat holding her hand, singing to her as she took her last breath on February 20, 2024 at 2:58Am. I have no words on how incredibly painful that was, as I am 33 years old and never failed to recognize how much I still needed my mom with me. I was in heavy grief, but felt so happy for her. She was with the love of her life, and her daughter who she missed and grieved daily. She passed away in a beautiful and peaceful moment.  Sepsis took my mother in a 4-day period, with no prior symptoms. I miss her every day, and hope that this tribute to her will somehow bring peace to another person reading it. Thank you for letting me share, May she be at peace!



Source: Mary Cowles, daughter

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