In June 2019, I woke up at 5:30 am with severe abdominal cramping and decided to go to the downstairs powder room instead of tying up the upstairs bathroom that my wife would need to get ready for work. I was so fatigued I decided to lay down on the sofa rather than go back upstairs to bed; when my wife left for work at 7:30, I told her I must’ve just had a bad GI flu and would be fine. Thank God she called my daughter who lives a half hour away and asked her to check on me, as by the time she reached me I was blacking out and couldn’t walk.
I remember the EMT calling out my BP as 65/30 as I was put in the ambulance, and realizing I was in serious trouble. As soon as I was admitted to the ER, I was immediately taken for a CT, with the technicians waiting for me; they saw that I had a large abscess from diverticulosis, that had perforated my colon wall and had developed into peritonitis, causing my blood pressure to drop significantly due to septic shock. (Sepsis and Perforated Bowel, Sepsis and Septic Shock) Fortunately I had an exceptional GI surgeon and infectious disease physician who jointly managed my treatment by draining the abscess, pumping me full of IV antibiotics, continually dosing me with drugs to raise my BP, and then keeping me in ICU for a week. One of the few things I remember from the ER physician who made my case an urgent priority is him telling me that if I had come in 30-45 minutes later, I very well may not have survived or could have even been DOA.
I remained on the GI floor of the hospital for another week until the abscess was completely gone and the perforation had healed over, but remained on IV antibiotics at home for two weeks after discharge via a PICC line. October 2019 I went back to the hospital for a colectomy to remove the section of bowel that would have been prone to developing diverticulosis again with the resulting risk of another perforation. What I did not realize was that the Post Sepsis Syndrome followed by major (8-1/2 hours) surgery would place such a strain on my immune system that the beginning of January 2020 I once again started blacking out and was again taken by ambulance to the ER where my BP was again dangerously low at 70/40 due to septic shock. This time the culprit was RSV and I stayed in the ICU for a week until my BP and O2 saturation were at normal levels. (Sepsis and Viral Infections)
My message to anyone who has experienced sepsis is that you may be far more susceptible to being hit with septic shock again than you realize. For the first six weeks after coming home from my second sepsis, I was sleeping 18 to 20 hours every day and was severely fatigued. It was literally six months before I could walk more than a mile without having to sit down and rest for 15 minutes, and three years later I still fatigue easily. I miss being as active as I was before learning more about sepsis than I ever wanted to, but I’m grateful to still be alive knowing now just how serious this condition is.