The Faces of Sepsis
Jen Decker - survivor
Despite living with cerebral palsy, I have been relatively medically stable for most of my 33 years. In April 2011, I underwent a breast reduction. Concurrently, I anticipated having the port-a-cath in my chest replaced, as the current site would interfere with the removal of breast tissue. When the surgeon went in to remove the port, he found adhesions, which prevented him from removing the old device. He ended up only repositioning it. However, I was not informed of the issue until I was admitted about a month later for semi-emergent gall bladder surgery.
I was only out of the hospital a week until I was readmitted with a bowel obstruction. The day before my anticipated discharge, I remember being cold to the point of shaking. The nurses did no more than to keep piling blankets on me. My mother came in to visit and her mother's intuition kicked into overdrive. I had a fever of nearly 104. There was some suspicion that the port was the source, but the general surgeon adamantly denied it.
Over the next two months, I experienced three more rounds of sepsis, one of which was septic shock. This resulted in an ICU admission with a blood pressure of 60/30 and signs of liver and kidney failure. The doctor in the ICU told my mother that it was a life and death situation.
It wasn't until my fourth admission and as many rounds of antibiotics, both inpatient and at home, that the vascular surgeon was consulted. Contrary to what I was told, removing the port was a 15-minute procedure -not the major cardiac surgery that I had been frightened by.
I have been home about three weeks now. So far, I have had normal lab values, with two more rounds of labs to go. I can't tell you the frustration, anger and fear that my family is still experiencing. If the general surgeon had explored his role in my illness, the source of the sepsis could have been removed in May. Instead, it came out four months later, after I almost did not make it. Before I contracted sepsis, I knew next to nothing about it, as I am sure is the experience of most people. Because of my illness and the fact that so much of it could have been prevented, I am doing what I can to raise awareness of this deadly illness.