The following post is quite graphic and intense. Reader discretion is advised, but so very important to know about.
Somewhere in my distant past, I heard the word “septic shock” at least once. I never really knew anything about it, other than it was something quite serious. If I recall, it ended with a person dying. But back then, I had no concerns about what exactly it was.
In 2012, that changed for me, in a near fatal way. There was nothing really unusual about the night before, when I got ready for sleep. It was a Sunday night, because it was the day of my oldest daughter’s birthday. It was a full weekend of activity between work and the party. By the end of the night, I was worn out. That was pretty much it. Around 11pm, I brushed my teeth, and crawled in to bed, to try to get as much sleep as I could before starting the new work week.
At around 3am, I abruptly sat up, in horror, and projectile vomited uncontrollably for nearly a minute as I attempted, quite miserably to get to the toilet in our master bathroom. No sooner had the vomiting stopped, immense pain hit me hard and fast. And when I say pain, it was worse than both the surgery from my heart bypass and my kidney stone combined. The pain was so bad, I passed out.
The next thing that I remember, I was laying on a gurney, with two paramedics (I may have been hallucinating because I could have sworn one of them was my former brother in law from a former marriage), and two police officers in my house. I had come to just briefly, and recall telling my now former spouse, “make sure the paramedics have my emergency cards from my wallet.”
The cards I was referring to, supplied information about the unique circumstances with my body, since it had been discovered that over the decades since my cancer treatment, had caused many issues that could complicate any kind of treatment for what was happening to me.
I was rolled out of my bedroom, and I saw my then 9 year old and 7 year old daughters watching me get rolled down the stairs and put into an ambulance. Sadly, this is not the first time that they had witnessed an emergency situation with me, nor would it be the last.
I have no recollection of the next many hours. Whether I was sedated, or just out cold, I have no idea, nor any memory. When I did wake up though, I was given the news. I had pneumonia.
Immediately I questioned how that could be. I was not coughing prior to this episode. I was not sick. But then the explanation went further, and I heard the words, “you are septic.”
I was in the stage somewhere between severe sepsis and septic shock. In any case, my life literally depending on timing. I person diagnosed with sepsis, can die within 24 hours if not treated aggressively enough. It is believed that I was not dealing with the common pneumonia that most people are familiar with, but rather a “mechanically” related pneumonia called “aspiration pneumonia.” I will try to keep it simple as far as the description, but complications from the radiation therapy that I had decades ago, caused a condition with my esophagus. This can possibly, and did this particular instance, cause me to inhale bacteria from decaying food that had not gone done my esophagus. This led to my sepsis.
Once sepsis is diagnosed, as I said, you literally have hours to get it under control, with extreme amounts of IV antibiotics. It is important to keep the infection, the sepsis from reaching the heart. Hence, death. With me being without a spleen, this was even more critical. Because without a spleen, my body cannot make the antibodies, or make them quick enough, and in a large enough supply to fight whatever infection I am dealing with.
Long story short, I did eventually recover. But I was startled from the news that I was given, which was followed up by one of the most stern lectures I had ever been given about my post cancer care.
There is a blood level that is a sure give-away that you are dealing with sepsis, called “lactic acid”. This was information provided to me from a friend who is also a paramedic who had told me just how often, sepsis goes undiagnosed in hospitals resulting in patients deaths. The level for sepsis diagnosis of lactic acid is greater than 4. My level was nearly double. And the tongue lashing I got, was for not getting to the hospital sooner. I could not believe it, because I had not idea, was not symptomatic at all until I woke up at 3am. I was told I was septic for more than 24 hours already. This was too close of a call.
Again, I had no idea I was septic, and I nearly died from it. And I have learned a lot about this, as I would deal with it again, nine months later with another episode of pneumonia. But further research that I feel is important enough to share with you right now.
I recently learned of a friend whose sister just passed away. She had pneumonia, was being treated for it, fell in the hospital, and though cured of the pneumonia, evidently developed some sort of infection, and died. It turned out she had broken her hip, but the infection was too great to fight it with antibiotics. And I know of at least two others right now who are dealing with recurring sepsis.
This is no joke. Lactic acid should be a mandatory blood test, especially if you are in a hospital.
A friend recently shared a blog about 10 things necessary to know about sepsis, from assessment, to transport, to treatment. I am including the link on this page. I know this post was quite graphic, but if you can make yourself aware of the hidden dangers of sepsis, if you are ever faced with the possibility of sepsis, you will become your greatest advocate for yourself, or for your loved ones.