The Faces of Sepsis
Whitney Hamilton - survivorSepsis wasn't supposed to happen to me. I was 20 years old, married, a mom and had just given birth to my second child, an 11-week premature, 2 lb 12 oz, baby girl. Despite her being born so early, we were both doing great. She was sent to a NICU about three hours away and I was anxiously waiting to be released from the hospital that Saturday so I could go see her.
I had my daughter on Thursday and on Friday night, I decided to take a shower so when I was released the next morning, we could leave to head straight to the NICU. Getting out of the shower, I leaned over a bit to get my towel when my back began hurting. I have had frequent back problems since I was a child, so I never really thought twice about it. I got dressed and got back in my hospital bed.
Within an hour, I was shivering and burning up at the same time. My husband got literally seven blankets to put over me and a fan to attach to my bedside because I was cold and hot. I'm not even sure how that's possible but I was. A nurse came by to check my vitals and I was running 101 degree fever but my blood pressure was normal.
My son has Menke's Disease and his sleep is precious to him so when he is hospitalized, my husband always makes the nurses leave him alone at night. I believe my husband told the nurse to leave me alone that night because they never woke me up. The next morning around 7 AM, I woke up feeling awful. I asked my husband, Matt, to go get a nurse. She checked my temperature to see it was 101 again. They gave me Tylenol and checked my blood pressure to see it was low. I am 5 foot 7 inches tall and weigh 110 lbs so this wasn't unusual for it to be low. My husband told them my blood pressure usually stayed low but they said it was very low.
During all this blood pressure taking, they put a catheter in me and ran blood work. I began feeling short of breath with chest pain. The nurses wheeled in electric and manual blood pressure pumps to check and re-check my blood pressure and each reading was coming back low. While the nurses were taking my blood pressure, one looked at me and said, "You are going to the ICU." I knew I felt awful but I was in denial about how bad it was.
After all the tests, the OB/GYN on call came in and said I was barely producing any urine and they suspected me delivering so early had cause an infection to set up in my uterus and that it had gotten into my bloodstream. By noon, I was in the ICU. It took about half an hour till they let my husband come back to see me. He was terrified and so was I. I was hooked up to antibiotics and fluids and the catheter was still in place. Matt got to visit several times but didn't get to stay long because of the rules of the ICU. I was in and out of it the first day in the ICU. I couldn't sleep very long or very peacefully. The next day I remember bits and pieces. I remember so little from the second day that I don't even remember having spent two days in the ICU - I only remember one day. My husband and mom had to help me piece my memories together to prove it to me. The second day, my mom came to see me and late that night, I was taken back to the post-partum floor.
I saw the same nurse the morning after I got back on the post-partum floor and she told me, "You were very lucky. We all - the doctors and nurses - thought you were going to code before we could get you to the ICU. You were very sick. You went toxic. One day, you need to look up the meaning of that and see how lucky you were." Well, about three months later, at a checkup to my OB/GYN I asked him what was actually wrong and that's when I got the name: SEPSIS. It's taken me almost a year since I got sick for me to find you guys and it takes me back to read the stories.
I just celebrated my 21st birthday in March. My daughter turns one June 10th and my son turns two July 31st. All things I would have missed if not for God showing the doctors and nurses what was wrong with me. I had wanted to leave that Saturday, even though I had a fever. I was trying to pretend I was feeling okay to go see my baby. Be aware of the symptoms. Better safe than sorry. I had never heard of sepsis before I had it. I spent nine days in the hospital and come home black and blue because of the seven days of antibiotics through IV.
I still feel weak. It took about six weeks for me to feel more like myself again. I was down for a long time. Now I've learned to cope. I guess the weakness will always be there because of whatever damage the sepsis did to my body but I am thankful to be alive and thankful to watch my babies grow.