World Sepsis Day is September 13, the same day which changed my life forever.
What I mean to share in this post is 'sepsis awareness'. After everything that we've been through, it’s actually a good time for me to finally write it out.
Let’s start Sepsis awareness by few less known facts
- Sepsis causes more deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. Globally, an estimated 20 – 30 million cases of sepsis occurs each year.
- Sepsis remains the primary cause of death from infection despite advances in modern medicine, including vaccines, antibiotics, and intensive care. Sepsis, which is often misunderstood by the public as “blood-poisoning” is one of the leading causes of death around the world
- Patients surviving sepsis have double the risk of death in the following 5 years compared with hospitalized controls and suffer from physical, cognitive and effective health problems.
- Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multiple organ failure, and death, especially if not recognized early and treated promptly. Between one third and one half of patients with sepsis die.
- Sepsis is often diagnosed too late, because the clinical symptoms and laboratory signs that are currently used for the diagnosis of sepsis, like raised temperature, increased pulse or breathing rate, or white blood cell count are unspecific
My mom wasn't doing well. I remember mom had been complaining about fever since a couple of days. But, she’s a lot like me. Or I suppose I should say I’m a lot like her. She insists she doesn't need to go to the doctor – or hospital – when in fact she does. But with all of us nagging, she finally relented and agreed to see a doctor. A few hours later, she returned with a diagnosis that I can’t even remember, but nothing serious. She’d be fine. There wasn't anything to worry about.
We took mom illness as normal “viral”. But then after few days, around two-and-a-half months ago, on a Saturday, we were having our routine lives. I had a call with my mom in the morning like any other weekend. Except my mom wasn’t feeling well. At all.
By noon mom had fever 104 F. She started feeling cold and she suddenly lost consciousness. She was rushed to the nearest hospital while she lay unconscious. By the time she reached hospital her blood pressured crashed down to 70/40 or something silly low close to that. It was just the beginning – and a mild version – of the crashes that were to come, but it was very fortunate that she was in the hospital by now and doctors where there for her. Doctors tried to stabilizer her, put her on ventilator and admitted her in the ICU. But, she showed no signs of improvement.
And so began seven days of pure hell, where my mom would nearly die – over and over and over again – in front of me and my family.
Doctors knew my mom was in septic shock. The mortality rate for sepsis goes up 8% every hour it goes undiagnosed, Mom went undiagnosed for 4 hours, killing her chances by 32%!
Sepsis shock is a medical condition caused as a result of severe internal infection where toxins released by bacteria cause tissue damage, low blood pressure, and organ failure. Because in mom’s case it hadn't been caught earlier and treated with antibiotics, it had progressed to the point that she was at risk of dying.
The doctors were working around the clock on mom — she was hooked up to every kind of life support. It had progressed well beyond sepsis. They just didn’t know what bacterium was causing it. Neither could they find the source of the infection, so she was on every heavy antibiotic there was – in extreme doses. By the third day, it was becoming apparent she wouldn’t be able to fight much longer; she wasn’t going to make it without the ventilator. They’d held off on that. It’s a last resort because when the body is as sick as her, pneumonia sets in quickly and then, well… But when the body is as sick as her, it needs help, too.
Things could have got worse. But with God’s grace, mom started responding to medicine and after a week she was discharged from the hospital. She is 52 years old. The only reason she lived through it was because she was healthy when it hit. She was incredibly physically active and in good shape.
Someone who was dealt a crappy health card in life — someone like me — would have been dead by the second day.
Mom was 30 pounds lighter when she came home. She could barely walk. We brought her to Delhi to make sure she gets best medical attention. She is getting better now.
Friends, sepsis and sepsis shock are no joke. I shared a limited account of my mom’s experience from my perspective. I’m still not completely over it, but I’m okay enough. I don’t believe she will ever be completely over it, physically or mentally. The details of the story – and more importantly, the part that followed the initial part – aren’t mine to share. So I’ve shared my experience, which was nothing in comparison. And yet it was a lifetime, lived in a week.