The Faces of Sepsis
Paul Chamberlain - survivor
Paul Chamberlain really felt blessed and lucky since everyone in the Fort Wayne, IN office had been sick during the last 6 to 8 weeks. He never felt very sick during this time and was able to continue working but now he was sick too. After a week of lying in bed sick and tired, he would get up for a short time but return back to his bed. He thought this flu should be over by now shouldn’t it?
The doctor’s office told him that they could not squeeze him in and to find an urgent care facility for treatment. So he and his wife Lin headed to the local emergency room.
Paul told the nurse he had a sore throat, nonproductive cough, congestion, and fever as high as 104 degrees for a week. He also complained of a headache in the upper forehead, body aches, and his chest hurt with deep breaths.
They took his vital signs and gave him ibuprofen, Tylenol, a pain reliever called Toradol intravenously and 500 ml bolus [a one-time amount of fluid] of normal saline, with normal saline thereafter. Blood tests (CBC, Chem 6), a throat culture, and glucose tests were performed.
Despite a negative influenza swab, a history of being sick for a week, tachycardia, low sodium level, low platelets, and low chloride, the doctor diagnosed a viral syndrome (flu) and discharged him. Vital signs were not taken before he left even though Paul stated that he did not feel any better. No chest x-ray was done, and no urinalysis was ordered. The treatment time was less than two hours after admission.
Paul was directed to follow-up with his primary physician in two to four days, take Motrin for pain, increase his fluid intake, and return as needed.
The next night Paul returned to the emergency room at 10:00 complaining of nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, extreme confusion and sore throat. The same doctor ordered CBC, Chem 6, glucose, liver profile, urinalysis, rapid flu, rapid strep, sputum for C and S, acute abdominal x-ray, and CT chest with contrast (later cancelled because of abnormal kidney function).
Paul was diagnosed with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bowel obstruction. The doctor did not check the throat culture results which he had ordered the previous day that showed a moderate growth of Staphylococcus Aureus (most common cause of staph infections). Antibiotics were not started. Paul would stay overnight so they could give him fluids.
After a five-hour stay in the emergency department, Paul’s family doctor admitted him into the hospital. The antibiotic, Zosyn, was finally ordered six and one-half hours after Paul’s second arrival at the emergency room.
Admission diagnoses noted septic shock, acute prostatitis, probable pneumonia, ileus, hypovolemic shock with dehydration secondary to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and acute respiratory distress. The doctor called Lin to rush to the hospital as Paul would probably die within the hour.
Paul developed profound encephalopathy, renal (kidney) failure, acute lung injury, and congestive heart failure. He required nearly four weeks of hospital care in the intensive care unit, almost three weeks of mechanical ventilation in a medically induced coma and had renal dialysis treatment.
Since discharge 4/2008 he has experienced significant voice change, chronic breathing problems from his intubation, social stigma via a tracheostomy, and multiple procedures to dilate his narrowing trachea including a tracheal resection and repositioning of his vocal box. He also experiences a weakened immune system causing limitations in attending family, social and business functions. He is blessed to be working from his home office.
Paul will tell you that prayer saved his life. His wife and many people were praying for healing. The specialists didn’t think he was going to make it and advised Lin to think about his health care directive allowing her to “pull the plug”. She and others cried out in prayer Saturday night and the next day on Easter Sunday, Paul’s chest x-ray was clear for the first time and he looked much better.
They removed the breathing tubes and a large glob of multicolored jelly plopped on his chest. The doctor said he didn’t know what had happened to cause this miraculous recovery. It had to be a miracle because he thought Paul would probably die. On Thursday he was home starting a long recovery period.
Paul’s illness was preventable. He is sharing his experience with others so they can recognize Sepsis warning signs and prevent a similar situation happening to themselves or their loved ones.