What began as a fairly uncomplicated laparoscopic hernia repair, became a life threatening/ altering event and recovery. My repair went well and I was discharged 24 hrs post op in stable health. I awoke that following morning with severe abdominal pain and sought care . Upon admission to our local Emergency I had no fever, WBC was normal and I was coherent. None of the classical Sepsis warning signs at this point in time except the extreme pain.
It became apparent I was septic a few hours later when my BP dropped and it was noted I had no urine output . I have no memory of the time spent in the ER and briefly recall my admission to the ICU after being told I needed medications to raise my BP and stabilize my now racing heart rate. On two occasions my heart had to be stopped and restarted twice to control the rhythm. I did not require ventilation support.
I have only brief memories of my time spent in ER and ICU. I suffered hallucinations of being extremely fearful that I was in danger from the staff and those around me. At one point I grabbed the nurses cell phone and called 911 to come and help me. This was a difficult time for my family in spite of their efforts could not reassure me. The uncertainty of my condition was heart wrenching for them.
It was confirmed I had multiple abdominal pelvic abscesses with a buffet of multiple organisms that required multiple kinds of antibiotics to treat. Once stabilized ( 5 days in ICU ) I was transferred to a surgical unit. My kidneys were recovering and a drainage had been inserted into my abdomen.
About 2 weeks later while still in our local hospital , I became ill again and it was decided to transport me from my local hospital to a much larger higher acuity care hospital.
It was here I developed a substantial enterocutaneous fistula and required PICC line and TPN support. Another drain was inserted as abdominal cysts were not resolving. I developed pneumonia, atelectasis and pleural effusions and a nasty sacral bed sore that was not noted in previous care facility until a few days before my transfer.
All in all I was hospitalized 58 days. Sepsis is a life altering event. I am humbled and mindful of how precious life can be . Sepsis is not just a patient centered illness, it is one that can devastate and exhaust family members. The physical, emotional, spiritual and economic struggles are real for not only the patient but those that love them. I was so fortunate to have so much loving support.
It was a long recovery. I was fortunate to have my sister move in with us during this time. At one point lifts were used in the hospital to transfer me as I could not even stand due to severe muscle atrophy. With lots of physio I was able to walk using a walker short distances. Fatigue was overwhelming. My already thin and short hair fell out. My skin , especially on my feet was shedding like snow on a winters, day. I struggled with concentration and brain fog. It took a few months before we all felt I was independent enough for my sister to return to her own home and life . Insomnia is still my biggest issue and am still haunted by the memories of it all. I required additional major surgery about a year later to close the fistula and repair yet another hernia and remove all the old surgical mesh. Fear of sepsis was my enemy required lots of reassurance and mental health support . I am pleased to say all went well and I am currently on a successful path to recovery.
I was a nurse and knew about sepsis, but truly did not fully understand or know how common and catastrophic the effects can be, both short term and long term. It is my hope that I can continue to support and advocate for Sepsis awareness, education and changes to protocols to help mitigate and improve outcomes for all sepsis patients and their families.