The date of my day surgery was set for October 31, 2011. It was called an endometrial ablation, often employed for people who suffer from excessive or prolonged bleeding during their menstrual cycle. Everything went well. Dr. A said it was a great success, one of the easiest ones she has done. GREAT!! We headed home.
The night of November 2, I began to feel pretty lousy. I remember waking in the night, just not feeling well. When Mark got up to head to work at 6 am, I was feeling really bad. I had chills, and felt very fluish, weak, was having some bleeding, and I was disoriented. (Sepsis and Surgery) So on the morning of the 3rd of November, we headed to the emergency department here in town. They immediately began an IV, as my blood pressure was low. They discovered that my white blood count was low, indicating infection. When they took my vitals in triage, they sent me straight in to the emergency department and started hooking me up to monitors. At that point the first doctor came in and immediately went and got a second doctor for a consultation.
They ordered an IV bolus as my blood pressure was very low, causing my heart to race. They did blood work and within a short period of time the Chief of Staff was called in to access the situation. He immediately ordered me to be moved to the ICU, so there would be more constant monitoring of my condition.
Mark: Sue would be transported by ambulance, back to the hospital where the day surgery had taken place. Remarkably, the only thing that Sue remembers from the time she woke up in the morning we took her into the emergency department and for the following four days, is the face of the nurse who traveled down with her in the ambulance.
Sue: Despite all that was going on, and the sense of urgency from the medical professionals, my husband Mark was very much at peace, unexplainable peace. He had prayed briefly, but just really sensed God was with us, walking every step beside us. My husband Mark, will tell the remaining story as I was not really with it enough:
Mark: At this point they had two IVs in Sue, to keep her pressure up. They explained that she had an infection, and that they would have to go back into surgery to find the cause. They were also preparing her for a shunt in one of the major arteries in her neck, as the veins in her arms were too small to get enough fluid into her to keep her pressure up, so they had to find a larger one. After many hours, the elevator doors opened and there on the gurney lay my beautiful wife. I was so excited to see her and say Hello, however to my shock, not only was she still unconscious but they were using a ventilator bag to help her breath. They wheeled her by me and Dr. A, one of the gynecologists, stopped to talk to me. She relayed that my wife had indeed gone septic. They had to perform a radical hysterectomy to remove the infected tissue and organs. She had been put into a medically induced coma, to allow her body a fighting chance to win this battle with sepsis. She needed all her resources to fight, to keep her blood pressure up to keep her organs functioning. I was told the Sue had been placed on vasal constrictors, to keep the blood in the core of her body, to prevent organ failure.
Subsequently over the next four days in the ICU her fingers and toes turned black. She had also received a blood transfusion. At this point, the doctors had to wait and see. If the bleeding continued, it was back to the OR, which according to one of the doctors was definitely not a great option, and he was uncomfortable with that one. He was in favor of transfusing again to see if the bleeding settled over time.
The doctor from the ICU came into waiting room to speak to me. He informed me that although Sue had made it through the surgery, that we shouldn’t get our hopes up, that she was not even close to being out of the woods, and may not make it through t he night, and that the next 24 hrs would be crucial. After four days in a coma, they began to wean her off the meds. She began to come out of the coma faster then they wanted so they discontinued all the coma-inducing medication in hopes that it might be easier on Sue that way.
Sue remained on IV antibiotics for the duration of the hospital stay. Physiotherapy was started, as she had lost muscle mass. Her appetite was not great but coming back slowly. She was very weak, and anxious. November 12, 2011, she released from Huntsville hospital and heading home!!
Being at home was a challenge, with very little strength and the fear of being reinfected caused much anxiety and fear. About the middle of the second week, we began to notice some changes. Sue’s appetite began to drop off, as well as her energy. She felt fluish and anxious. On the third visit to see us, the doctor agreed these were concerning signs.
Sue: The results came back and yes, indeed, I was beginning to form a collection of fluid once again in my abdominal cavity. So the doctor explained that they needed to go in and drain the pocket quickly, as it was growing fast. She explained that they would try and go in vaginally to drain it, but if they could not do that successfully, they would leave the option open to reopen my abdomen, and drain it that way. Either way it was risky, but vaginally was the better of the two. They prepped me for surgery. I awoke from surgery and was moved to a hospital room. The surgery had gone well, the doctors were able to do the surgery vaginally and, although I would suffer the consequences of that in many ways later, I was happy they did not have to go through my abdomen again so soon. I felt even worse then when I had arrived at the emergency room earlier that day, the doctor explained that once they had broken up the growing abscess, it would spread throughout my body, making me feel even worse then I did.
I really felt like I was dying, all I could do to communicate was look at Mark, with a sense of hopelessness in my eyes. Through this journey, I had been put on some very strong and awful antibiotics, the only one that this E Coli, and the other bacteria would respond to. It was giving me terrible “gut rot”, is the term the doctors used. Stripping my intestines of all the natural bacteria that helps to digest food. It also meant there was lots of bloating and burning, even though I was not able to eat much. The food I did manage to eat, was passed through my system basically undigested and came out much the same way it had gone in. So very little nutrition was getting to me. I was losing weight like crazy and strength as a result. After 3 or 4 days, I began to feel slightly better, but my nerves, my body, and my mind, had been through so much, that it was hard to celebrate.
The doctors had placed a drain in my vagina reaching up where my cervix had been and into my abdominal cavity, to keep drainage going. When the time came to remove the drain, they asked if I wanted it to be taken out with anesthetic. I told them no, just remove it here in my bed in the hospital room. I was not up for a lot of hoopla. They agreed. It was somewhat painful, but what happened next was worse. When the drain was removed it also sent more infectious material through my body and so once again I felt ill. During much of this time my appetite was basically non-existent, at one point the head gynecologist came to check on me as he was on call that weekend. He was very concerned with the lack of eating and basically begged me to eat. The days were going on and December had arrived. I was getting stronger and closer to being released, although that was not something I was rushing toward, the thought of heading home and being discontinued from my IV antibiotics terrified me. Even one of the surgeons had said, ” I wish we could just keep you hooked up to your IV forever.” That was not a comforting conversation. I was released on December 4, 2011. I could hardly do anything and my body would start to shake uncontrollably, due to weakness. There is much more to my story and most of it is accompanied by pictures as well.
It has been two years to the month. I still suffer from many consequences of sepsis: loss of memory, confusion, lack of energy, interrupted sleep patterns, the list goes on. However, I am so grateful to be here, enjoying my family, which includes my six beautiful grandkids, and of course my best friend through all of this, and the last 30 some years of my life, my hubby Mark.