Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “sepsis”

The Hidden Danger Of Sepsis

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.



Bravery is defined in Merriam-Webster as courage.

I decided to look this up today.  A co-worker was having a conversation with me, coming to find out everything that I had been going through in just the last several weeks.  And his comment to me was, “You’re really brave.”  And I looked at him like I was almost hoping for a hint of sarcasm or even some foolery.  But for once, he meant it.  And then he repeated it, “You are brave.”

The first time I heard it, I was uneasy.  I was hoping the conversation would end, but when he said it the second time, I knew that I had to deal with it.

In my life, I am hard pressed to find even one instance in my life where I could be defined as brave.  I have never fought in any armed service.  I have never broke up an attempted bank robbery.

But when people find out that I have beaten cancer, had open heart surgery, two cases of pneumonia (one with sepsis and the other double pneumonia), kidney stones, all kinds of late issues from my treatments, I get, “You are brave.”

When I think of “bravery”, I think of men and women who run into a burning building, police officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day, an airline pilot flying a human missile loaded with hundreds of lives, a teacher shielding her students from a lunatic’s bullets.

No, I am not brave at all.  I simply did what I had to do.  I have two beautiful daughters who I know love me so much, it would devastate them to lose me.  I have no choice but endure if my body and mind are capable of doing so.  In the second half of my life, I have met so many people who have faced relapses of their cancer, multiple cancers, those who struggle with their survivorship from the treatments that saved their lives, and sadly, those who lost their battles.

I have always said that I would not go through anymore treatments if my Hodgkin’s Disease came back, that is, until my daughters came along.  One of my dearest friends has faced nearly 50 surgeries all having to do with her surviving her cancer treatments, this along with a battle with a secondary cancer.  With so many close calls, not just near death, or in some cases, flat lines, she continues to trudge on to this day, not only a proud mother, but the happiest grandmother, something that she never thought she would ever see.

I do not know how she would react if I told her that she was brave.  I know on occasions when I have talked with her on the telephone, I have told her that I was speechless for words to how I felt with her continued struggles and survival.  It would be easy for her to give up I think.  She has been through so much.  But the fact is, she has not given up.  It is with her example that I can never make that decision either.

And so, I am watched periodically, whether month to month, quarterly, or annually.  There are things that have been identified and can be dealt with.  I go to my appointments not afraid, but confident in my caregivers that things will be dealt with sooner than later.  That is not bravery, that is trust.  As for the all-of-a-sudden stuff like the pneumonias, the cardiac issue, some kidney activity… a little luck does not hurt either.

Can Being Bullied Be A Good Thing?

Over the last few years, especially with my 2011 school board campaign, I had many conversations about bullying in schools.  I have been an advocate for bully prevention forever.  In today’s schools and neighborhoods, I do not believe any level of bullying can be tolerated or treated as a “phase all kids go through.”

Bullying in school is frequently referred to in my daughters’ karate class by their instructor.  He does not teach them to attack bullies, but rather get help or defend.  But if a child must defend themselves, then by all means the child will.  But it was a conversation with a couple of parents that spurred this post.  I was talking to one parent about her son being bullied and how the school district is doing nothing to prevent it.  According to the parent, the child is in an alternative placement along with another student who is frequently physically assaulting her child.  I will not get into specifics of the case because I have only been told one side.  But I will say this.  No child should have their civil rights violated by being physically abused by another student.  If what the parent says is true, that this behavior is repeated, and the school has been notified, and so has the school district that placed both students, then the school is condoning the acts and the district is ignoring the acts, both by simply ignoring the complaints.  This is going to sound harsh, but if no one from the school or the district will control this situation, then the parent should involve the local authorities with formal charges against the bully for assault.

Just then, another parent joins in the conversation and begins to discuss bullying issues that his children have had.  But the father went further by explaining why he would not tolerate behavior like that at all against his children.  He revealed at that moment that he had been frequently abused in school by bullies.  He did not goin into reasons, but the point that he stressed, was the impact that it has had on him as an adult.  Honestly, I have never seen him bust a gut with a laughing fit,  but he has expressed a sense of humor, albeit a dry one.  But he got my attention with what he told me that he did not consider funny.  I will not go into those boundaries, because the point I want to make is how his being bullied as a child has made him the way he is today.

And that got me to thinking.  How did my being bullied in school affect me as an adult?  Quite simply, I do not choose my battles.  I will not back down from anyone for anything.  If I really do not believe in something,  that I am being urged to do or support, I will not, no matter the cost.  It is almost as if, all the crap I took from everyone back in school, I would never put up with any in my adult life, ever.   Having no one stand up for me, I will fight for everyone and everything.  This kind of thinking has not been good for me.  I have lost friends.  Family alienates me.  And there are frequent quarrels with Wendy. 

The majority of my co-workers despise me because I choose to do my job ethically, while they would rather cut corners, work unsafely, just to have hang-around time and socialize or surf the net.  But they are also good at slandering me and making false claims against me.  I do not let them get the upper hand, even if I happen to get in trouble.  I rely on my reputation for my work to speak for me.

Salesman have no chance against me.  Insurance reps, do not even think about ringing my door bell.  You might get away with mixing up my food order.

But my toughness from being bullied I thnk conributed to how I deal with my health.  For starters, I took on my battle with Hodgkin’s Disease never thinking the possibility it would take me.  Recovery from all the side effects was taken on the same way.  I would over come.  My heart surgery, bouts with pneumonia, all recovered under my direction, my determination.  But I get through them because I am so physically tough, a high tolerance for pain.  But that is what is keeping me alive.

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