The Faces of Sepsis
Tracie Storie - survivor
I, too, suffered from sepsis just last year at the age of 52. I was very lucky I had my beautiful daughter and husband insist on taking me to an Emergency room for a diagnosis.
My husband and I had been vacationing in England for a few days when I developed what I thought was cystitis. I went to a pharmacy there and bought an inexpensive over-the-counter medicine to treat the symptoms. It was not an antibiotic. The UTI was better for a few days. Then it flared up again, along with what I thought was a sinus infection for the last four days of our 2-week trip.
I thought it was just allergies, because my husband didn't seem to get sick, even though I had a lot of bad headaches, sneezing, and stuffy nose and sinuses. We arrived in Boston the day before Thanksgiving to spend it with our daughter, her husband, and our son. I generally wasn't hungry and just wanted to rest. I couldn't make myself feel warm. I was wearing long-handle underwear, two or three shirts, and a down coat, and I still felt like I was freezing while just trying to nap under a couple of blankets.
My fever was only about 99, rising up to maybe a little over 101. I took sinus medicine and Tylenol for the headaches, but it didn't seem to help. Finally my daughter insisted on taking me to the Emergency Room of the hospital because I couldn't speak without my teeth chattering.
They admitted me right away and, after a short time, took me into the Intensive Care unit where I was in a room with just one nurse who watched over me all night. I was kept there for about 24 hours before they moved me into a regular private room. I was on constant IV fluids because I was very dehydrated and also had dangerously low blood pressure. I arrived there on a Saturday. I can't remember exactly when they told me I had an infection in my bloodstream. They weren't able to get my personal medical records to know what antibiotics I was allergic to.
Right before we left for England in early November, 2010, I'd had a bad cough and I was prescribed an antibiotic that I had an allergic reaction to, but I couldn't remember the name of it. I have some other health problems and allergies, and I could name those, including penicillin.
They were working very hard at the hospital to treat me with what they could to get my blood pressure up and at the same time find out what kind of infection I had in my blood. They discovered it was a kind of e-coli bacteria and on Monday they were finally able to access my doctor's records in Austin to learn which kind of antibiotics I could safely take.
The third morning I was in the regular hospital wing, the doctor came in and told me this: I "was too young to be that sick, we were very worried about you." I said I didn't think I was young; I was 52. She said that was "young by hospital standards." I had never heard of sepsis before and didn't know how dangerous it was or even what symptoms to look out for.
After four nights in the hospital I was released, but went back to the ER a couple of nights later because I still had tremendous head and neck pain. I called my doctot in Austin and she told me to go back to the ER, it sounded like I might have an untreated meningitis.
The doctor at the same hospital did a spinal tap. Luckily, the fluid was clear and there was no meningitis. The head and neck ache eventually went away, must have been part of the sepsis.
If our daughter hadn't insisted on taking me to the ER I might have died. I think it’s very typical of women to think they are OK and don't need special attention. We tend to pay attention to other people's symptoms first, because we are usually the nurturers or caregivers. It's important to remember that if you get sick and die, what will your loved ones do without you? You must take care of yourself too. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms. It is all too easy to dismiss them as I tried to do.
I am lucky to be alive today and am very grateful to the doctors and nurses who took care of me who really are unsung heroes. Here is a very good link with more info about this disease and what to watch out for in yourself, your friends or family, even young children: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/sepsis_blood_infection/article_em.htm