What is SEPSIS

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Sepsis

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is your body’s overreaction to an infection.

What types of infection can become septic?

Any. By any, I mean viral or bacterial infection on the planet. The flu? Yep. A hangnail? Sure. Pneumonia, major surgery, even food poisoning can go septic.

There are three stages to sepsis.
1. Sepsis
2. Severe Sepsis
3. Septic Shock

It is my opinion the Stage One, sepsis, is the most dangerous. You might wonder why. It is because sepsis masquerades as the flu. Yes, the flu. Fever, aches, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Temperatures on the fever can reach over 108 degrees.

The flu is the one thing that doctors tell us to stay at home and wait it out. In the case of sepsis that is a deadly mistake. Almost sixty percent of people who make it to Stage two die. By Stage three that number doubles to ninety percent.

By Stave two you get to loss of motor control, difficulty breathing, and confusion. Loss of muscular skeletal systems also occurs. By now a patient risks brain damage from the infection and the fever.

Once a person hits septic shock they are intubated and put into a medical coma. Once a person enters the coma very rarely do they come out of it. When and if they do they could have memory loss, PTSD, limb loss, and above all post sepsis syndrome.

That last term is likely to be a new term to all of you. So allow me to explain the joys of post sepsis syndrome. Feel free to read as much sarcasm in that last statement as you wish.

Post sepsis syndrome is something that every survivor has to live with for the rest of their live (most live to be octogenarians). Some of the signs of post sepsis syndrome include lethargy, weakened immune system, and an exacerbation of any preexisting conditions that you might have had. Those are only some of the know long-term effects.

By lethargy I mean that they will most likely have to rotate the days they do work on; such as work two days, sleep two days. By the end of the day they are mumbling and possibly incoherent. There will be days they cannot get out of bed or off the couch. This is not their fault but that of the disease that struck them low in the first place.

A weakened immune system means they will likely catch any bug that is going around. Expect the need for antibiotics on a regular basis. Vitamins and probiotics may be needed by some. Especially B12.

Anxiety and panic are never far away. It sometimes seems that they can’t go a day without it. The feeling of uselessness because they can’t do what they once could is devastating to them. With the help of a good doctor and support from family and friends these things can be overcome. I promise.

Prior conditions is the worst one. If they had bronchitis before hand it is likely to turn into full blown asthma. If there was a kidney problem before hand, expect to need dialysis afterward. Blood pressure problems are known to get worse and so is arthritis.

Between twenty eight and fifty percent of people die each year from sepsis in the United States alone. This is more than the total of prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined. This is the primary reason we need to question something even as simple as the flu. Sepsis is survivable – the earlier it is detected the better your chances of survival. Thankfully the CDC has declared Sepsis its own disease and not a condition of a prior infection. This gives me hope that awareness of it will spread.

If the long-term frightens you the short-term will hurt you. Hair and appetite loss occur. The person also changes from the one you have known. Some of them get more wary of their surroundings and all are terrified of getting ill again. Many find a new purpose in life while others may lose their way.

A New Normal

After all this doom an gloom, I’ll move on to something a little brighter. That topic is, A New Normal. By that, many of you may be wondering what I mean. Unfortunately, there is no mystery to that fact. The words are self explanatory. Survivors of sepsis literally have to find what is now acceptable to them and their bodies. What they can tolerate now will be different than what they could before.

They may not be able to work as hard or as long as they once could before needing a break. They might not even be able to do the same job as before – more than one person has had to change careers. Many survivors end up on disability due to the amount of damage done to their bodies. Energy seems to be a recycled concept now. They have good days where they were almost what they once were (those are what I like to refer to as a shining moment in the sun); then they have the bad days.

Those are the days they can’t get out of bed and staying awake seems impossible.

Any medical problems they had before sepsis magnifies after. For instance, bronchitis can turn into full blown asthma.

Fibromyalgia is known to develop. Arthritis flares dramatically. Because of the high fevers hair loss occurs. That one at least grows back. Exhaustion becomes a familiar friend and memory loss is a regular occurrence. Some have an increase in appetite and others a decrease. Anxiety tends to go through the roof. You worry about ever getting that ill again. You don’t want to go through it again.

Something Personal

Life isn’t all doom and gloom though. The survivor finds a new appreciation for what was almost taken from them. They challenge themselves more and often find new purpose.

I know I have. I ended up with septic shock due to salmonella – that’ll teach me from eating out at a certain restaurant. How I survived, I don’t know. But I am grateful for it. At almost two years out I am still recovering and trying to find my New Normal.

I barely remember the beginning of my illness. I don’t remember my husband having to put me into the shower – clothes and all – to break my fever. I don’t remember not being able to hold any food down for a week. I don’t remember doing the can-can while trying to walk. I don’t remember arguing about not going to the hospital.

In that time I have gained so many memories. I’ve regrown my hair (which grew back curly instead of stick straight, the color also slightly changed) and learned to watch for the signs of exhaustion – weak knees and difficulty getting out of bed. I’ve gained an inhaler and have learned to watch my footing.

My favorite memory is the look on my husband’s face as I stood for the first time in two weeks. The combination of shock, awe, pride, and love on his face is one I will take with me to the grave. I remember that day well.

He walked into my hospital room and I was sitting in a chair with the table in front of me doing a crossword puzzle. A nurse was changing my bedding. When he walked in I pushed the table away and used the arms of the chair to push myself up. When I felt his arms around me for the first time in weeks I almost cried. I think he did too.

I’ve gained new skills during my recovery as well. I can help build a house and use the tools necessary. I can now make hand made jewelry, and in my personal opinion my writing has reached a new level. I’ve even learned to cook in a better way than I could before. That is something I am profoundly happy with.

I’ve learned my share of lessons as well. One is to be patient with myself. When I compare how I am now to how I was I am amazed at my own progress. It hasn’t been an easy road to travel, but I have overcome it. I somehow managed to turn insurmountable boulders into pebbles when I taught myself how to walk again. I’ve learned to accept that parts of my body will never recover. Thank you lungs and bladder – a ventilator and catheter for that length of time will do that to you I suppose (or so my doctor says).

I’ve also learned that coconut oil is great for your hair (I use a spray on) and that dissolvable B12 doesn’t leave an aftertaste in your mouth like the pill form does if you don’t swallow it fast enough. I’ve learned peace is hard to come by, but it does eventually find you. Patience is a friend that you become familiar with.

Of all these lessons though, the important one for me is to cherish what I have now. Because I almost wasn’t here to enjoy it.

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Recent Memories

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Hi all,

I woke up this morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I figured I would get what bothering me off my chest. The following post is a set of memories that have happened over the last year. While it has been a trying ordeal it is one that I have survived. Thanks for sharing these memories with me.

I don’t remember almost a week before the hospital. I don’t remember the high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or the sever cramps. I don’t remember arguing with my husband about going to the hospital. I don’t remember being admitted to the hospital with severe sepsis. Later the cause of the sepsis was determined to be salmonella.

I don’t remember telling the nurses I was having trouble breathing. I don’t remember them intubating me. I don’t remember the ice baths to bring down my fever or the spinal tap. I don’t remember the restraints. I don’t remember receiving my newest teddy bear, Mr. Cuddles – or naming him.

What I do remember is them pulling the tube out of my throat and saying, “Call me husband.” I remember that first breath of air half pulling me up from a lying position. I remember my husband walking into the ICU room and reaching down hug me and plant a kiss on my greasy hair. I remember him asking me where we ate that we didn’t share a meal. I remember telling him where we ate.

I remember the nurses thickening my water until they were sure I could swallow again. Then they gave me straight water. This was followed by applesauce, cereal bars, and juice. I had responded to the antibiotics fast enough that they were moving me to a room on the seventh floor by the end of the night.

The next day I saw my doctor in the room and he said at the rate I was going that if I pushed it I could be home in four days. I remember promising them I would be out on that Thursday. That evening the nurses came helpfully showed me some exercises that I could do to strengthen my legs so that when Therapy came in the room I would be able to stand with a walker.

Sadly, the next day was Sunday so I would have to wait until Monday for the Occupational Therapists. But the nurses and their aides helped me from my bed to the chair in my room. For the first time in two weeks I was sitting in a chair! That was the same day the my best friend came up to see me. Later in the week my sister-in-law came up to see me. My husband was there daily.

My next memory is seeing my husband’s face when he came in the room to ask me how I was doing. The joy, awe, and love expressed there is something that will be forever etched into my mind.

The look on his face when I pushed my hospital table away from the chair to stand up and give him a hug was one of the most beautiful sights I will ever see. I tell you now, feeling his arms encircle me for the first time in a good two weeks is a feeling I will never forget.

The nurses and their aides would take me for walks around the ward multiple times of day. The stopped to talk to me. One of the aides I met put a piece of my childhood to rest. Something I will never be able to thank her enough for.

A nurse from nutrition came to tell me to order more food. I had been placed on the seventh floor not because I was a cardiac patient, but because I needed the extra eyes they could provide in case of an emergency. No food restrictions for me, what a relief!

My husband wasn’t there when they told me I could go home as scheduled so I had the privilege of telling him that. That was also the same day he brought me a copy of Ivanhoe so I had some reading material in the hospital.

I remember them taking out the PIC line. After resting they helped me to get dressed in clothes that my husband had bought me. For the first time in roughly two weeks I put my teeth in my mouth. Now that was a real accomplishment.

My husband went to bring the truck around to the front of the hospital while the nurses helped me into the wheelchair that would take me out side. The aid talked to me and wished me well in my recovery. She also told me that it was a pleasure to see someone fight an illness as hard as I had.

When they pushed me outside into that warm fresh air, I felt invigorated. It was early spring in everything was in bloom! There was color everywhere! They helped me into the truck and I was off.

As we drove through the warm streets my husband and I talked and talked. He had bought me a new blanket for the couch, as well as some new tank tops to work in once I got stronger. Falling asleep in his arms that night was a treat. Finally, I would get some real sleep.

I needed a walker and my husband’s arm for the first week or so. Something as simple as going to the bathroom or taking a shower had become a team effort. Slowly though I became strong again, walks in the yard and through the garden helped.

What they didn’t tell me at the hospital was long term effects from the salmonella and sepsis. They didn’t tell me about PTSD, increased arthritic pain, or losing most of my hair. They didn’t tell me that both illnesses could exacerbate issues I already had.

The increased pain started almost immediately, it’s decreasing now. The PTSD is manageable. I don’t question eating out as much now. I still get minor panic attacks when something from the deli isn’t right.

When I started to lose my hair I didn’t know what was going on, so I researched it. Turns out the high fever from the sepsis cause some of it to fall out. It’s growing back nicely now.

I fear my breathing will never be the best now. Before the illness I was prone to bronchial infections. Today walking gets me so winded that I have to sit to catch my breath. I find that walking slow and steady helps.

Some days I’m wobbly with my balance, but certain exercises have helped with that as well. I’ve dealt with feeling useless and a burden to thinking that I’ve become pretty damn strong.

The last clear memory I have before the illness is me asking my husband if he thought I should wait to publish my next book. Glad we decided not to wait. Otherwise it would have been over a month before it hit store shelves.

Here it is a year later and while there have been bumpy patches we are still here. While I still have things to watch out for great things have been accomplished. I am whole and working again, part of the house has been remodeled, and I have published three more books.

We’ve had friends over and cook outs. Even done some traveling. We’ve seen the Old Quarter in St. Augustine as well as the pirate ship there. We’ve even been to Chattanooga to see the train. We’ve seen mountains and flowers, rain, snow and sun. The point is that we’ve seen all these beautiful things.