Susan H.


The Day I went missing.

November 24, 2020 was the last day before Thanksgiving Break from high school. I am a 62 yr. old female, entering my 18th year of teaching special education. I had a history of diverticulosis, my father died when I was 18 of colon cancer. I was consistent with preventive colon care, but had been hospitalized for a night for diverticulitis in 2019. After the infection had cleared, a colonoscopy revealed severe diverticulosis, and gastro doctor advised 11 inches be taken out.

My husband and I both met with him and got a second opinion, and both stated with diet the surgery was not necessary at that time. I went to school that Tuesday, like every other day. Throughout the morning, I complained to fellow teachers that I felt I needed to poop but could not. (Pressure) I remember going to faculty bathroom, texting a fellow teacher and saying I was not feeling well and gave my location. When she got there, I told her to call the nurse. The nurse came, listen to my colon, and said “I am calling 911”. I do not remember anything else until December 5, 2020.

My bowel perforated at school that morning. (Sepsis and Perforated Bowel) I was transported to a local emergency center because they did not have any COVID patients. They had a difficult time getting my pain under control, took a CT scan, and called local hospital stating I had a micro-tear in my bowel. I was admitted into hospital, and placed on IV antibiotics, and laid for a 24 hour period before going into septic-shock from fecal contamination. (Sepsis and Septic Shock)

Emergency surgery, ventilated, colostomy, 2 weeks on ICU no memory, (COVID) pandemic, organ failures, abscesses on organs and no family present. Interesting, the RN prepared my husband one night that I may not survive the night. That night happened to be the same day my father died. If post sepsis syndrome were looking for a “poster-girl”, it could me because I had/have all the symptoms: septic shock, drug-induced coma, sudden blood pressure drop, delusional, swollen limbs, organ failure, etc. The hospital staff were able to get me off the vent, and I was able to go to a step-down unit. There I hallucinated for two weeks, but my family could see me one at a time. When I awoke, I was afraid and very, very weak. I asked my husband and adult children to stay with me 24/7.

The next 2 weeks I went to a rehab unit within the hospital to learn to walk, talk, think, and accomplish the task of walking up 3 steps without a railing, so I could go home. After spending Thanksgiving, and Christmas in the hospital, I was able to be home for New Year’s. All attention was based on healing, and navigating a colostomy, and gaining strength to have the resection in March, 2021. Resection went well (1 week in-patient), but abdominal cavity became infected. Was placed on a heavy antibiotic, which caused C-diff. Was hospitalized twice for a week due to C-diff. (Mother’s Day and Memorial Day) I was discharged June 1, 2021 and spent July and August rebuilding my entire gut health. (pro-biotic) with significant dietary changes.

I spent the first year physically healing, it has taken me an additional two years to mentally deal with the trauma (4 times almost dying), and the loss of a career, independence, etc. I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Started counselling in April, 2022 and am still going. Started physical therapy, with a PT therapist who can do manipulation. It took 40 treatments, to unlock my body and strengthen it to carry two half loaded grocery bags. It was about this time I found out about post sepsis ayndrome. What a relief! There is a reason why I am not bouncing back. My family noticed changes in my ability to multi-task, remember, at first just regulate emotions, lack of physical strength. I took the letter to my PA-C and asked her to review my record to see if I met the qualifications. She wrote a medical update to include treatment for PSS. Also, part of my care plan will consist of cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical therapy. My counselor gave me this advice that I have tried to remember: You can have good coping skills to deal with after effects of a trauma, but that does not mean the trauma is healed.

I did survive it with my strong faith in God, and my belief that Jesus kissed me on the cheek and sent me back for something special. I have had to advocate for myself during this whole process. When I could not do it for myself, my family stepped in. The therapy helped with the grief, understanding the trauma and its impact on my whole being. The PT helped me not be afraid of my own body and manipulating the scar tissue that had built up over the year. Slowly, these things convinced me that I could get better. I still struggle with back issues because it has been hard building the abdominal muscles and increasing stamina of physical strength. Sepsis was never mentioned in hospital at anytime. The surgeon repeatedly said: “Your wife/mother is going to be sick for a long time”. At that point no one understood the definition of a long time. November, 2024 will be 4 years since the medical trauma.

I continue to integrate this into my life, and try to redefine the quality of my life. I was fortunate not to have lost any appendages during the ICU. My advice, keep seeking care. Just because you may look okay on the outside, means nothing. The trauma rocked myself and my family, the school, my friends, etc. I have never regained the strength to return to work. Keep the faith!!! My picture is when I came home after first six week hospitalization. My dog was my protector.

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