It was May 2017 and I had not been feeling well. I knew I had pneumonia, I was prone to it, even in the summer months. I was breathing shallowly and trying to stop my coughing fits. My breathing was raspy and it hurt. I was freezing cold and then I sweat out soaking the bed. I was dehydrated, or so I thought because I was not using the washroom much. All signs of Sepsis I later found out. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Friday, the very next day…
My husband worked in camp and had been scheduled to work that weekend. He, as usual, left very early Thursday morning for the weekend. Somehow, Thursday evening he heard a truck was going out, so out of the blue, for no reason, my husband decided to hitch a ride and come home for the night instead of staying in camp.
He arrived about 7PM and right away knew something was wrong. It had been a blistering hot day and he found the doors all shut and the dogs going insane inside. When he came in, he immediately noticed coffee had not made that morning and ran to the bedroom. I was sitting up in bed, blue and completely unresponsive. He called 911. On the way to the hospital the EMTs were trying to revive me. We were luckily met by a second ambulance responding to the call. An EMT jumped into the ambulance I was in, and she was a whiz with the respirator. Thank God because I crashed. I am forever grateful for the angels we call First Responders because they did not give up on me and were finally able to bring me back to the living.
In emergency, doctors ran all kinds of tests not understanding what happened. I was blue and nobody understood what was going on! I was transferred to the city hospital by ambulance, with my husband frantically in pursuit. I was there only a few hours before I was air lifted to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). And again, my husband exhausted and worried beyond words drives the long trip to Vancouver to be with me. VGH was the only hospital in BC (at the time) to have an extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine which was pivotal in saving my life. I was in complete organ failure and induced coma. I was hooked up to every kind of machine possible including the ECMO machine. My lungs had collapsed, my heart and kidneys failed, other organs were also affected. I suffered blood clots and thrombosis that nearly killed me again. I was FINALLY diagnosed with Septic Pneumonia.
Drowning. Septic pneumonia. Oh God, drowning in your own fluids is the scariest, most horrific feeling I have ever, ever felt in my life. They put a tube down my throat to suction the fluid and my eyes scream in terror for someone to please help me because I’m drowning. I’m terrified. There is nothing I can say to describe it. And still to this day I wake up in a sweat having a nighttime terror attack that once again I’m drowning while still alive.
The doctors told my family that chances are I’m not going to make it. Yet my family held the one hand they were able to hold, whispered whatever words of encouragement and love that they did, kissed my brow, and somehow.... somehow, I must have heard them. Because luckily, I came back to them. I was in a coma for 3 months. I spent a total of 6 months in hospital. I required 3.5 months in rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. I was readmitted with infection 3 more times. The only good thing that came from all of this was, when being readmitted the third time, I finally was assigned a doctor that “listened” to me! She said “Let’s figure out what’s causing the infection because I don’t want to see you in the hospital anymore.” The cause of the secondary infection was a tooth that had been crumbling. This caused me no discomfort as both the tooth and root were dead. I was prescribed some very strong antibiotics that I had to take for over a month before I could have the tooth removed. I have not since had a reoccurrence or been readmitted.
A few years before all this, my husband and I made our dreams come true and bought acreage in the little town and built our off-grid cabin in the woods. We even living in a converted shipping container while my husband completed our log cabin. It was a 15 year dream that we discussed over and over again, and now our dreams were suddenly crushed. Everything has fallen onto my husband’s shoulders and it is a heavy burden to carry. As Post-Sepsis Syndrome is not well-characterized, or wll-known, we do not have supports and have lost many friends. I feel they don’t understand the new me and are tired of all the stories that have come with my experience. I’ve learned not to burden family and friends with the true version of my days and nights. I suffer from PTSD, mental and physical pain. I have been left with polyneuropathy and I am permanently disabled. Because of Sepsis, I am forever changed.