Sepsis Doesn't Discriminate: A Mom's Wake-Up Call
*The cover photo was taken right before I left for carpool and honestly I looked and felt fine other than my stomach, which goes to show you how quickly our health can change*
Hey there, fellow moms! Sarah here, and I want to share my recent experience with sepsis. Two weeks ago, I became seriously ill and was hospitalized with sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by the body's response to an infection.
It all started when I was headed to pick up my kids from school and began experiencing upper stomach pain, which quickly turned into chills & pain that even the car heater on full blast and the car seat warmer couldn't help. I knew something wasn't right, but I pressed on and went to two of the three schools before feeling the need to throw up. I texted my oldest, Lily, told her I'd be late, and headed home, where I started vomiting.
I called my husband, and we went to urgent care when he arrived home. I spent hours there getting tests, including blood and urine work and a CT scan, as the medical professionals thought I might have appendicitis. They sent me by ambulance to the local hospital for my appendectomy to be performed. But that wasn't the case, and I was sent home around 1 am to follow up with my primary care doctor the next day.
However, things didn't improve. I went in for morning blood and urine work, but by 4 pm, I had spiked a fever and was in a lot of pain. So, I headed back to urgent care, where the same doctor who had seen me the day before urged us to head to our Kaiser hospital for more comprehensive care.
I was hospitalized on IV antibiotics for two days as my liver, kidney, appendix, and spleen were all swollen. I had a total of three CT scans, an MRI, and two ultrasounds, and my formal diagnosis was "sepsis without acute organ dysfunction." It was a scary experience, not knowing what was going on or what was going to happen next, but the doctors and nurses at the hospital took care of me and provided me with the treatment I needed.
Looking back on it all, I'm grateful for the care I received at both hospitals. But it's important to remember that as patients, we have the power to advocate for ourselves and seek out the care we need when we need it—sharing more about the signs and symptoms of sepsis and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from this dangerous condition.
Common warning signs of sepsis to look out for:
- Fever, chills, or a body temperature that is too low (hypothermia)
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Confusion or disorientation
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Decreased urine output
- Skin that is warm, red, or discolored
- A general feeling of being unwell or "off"
Sepsis can be caused by a variety of infections, including:
- Bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin infections, or infections in the bloodstream (bacteremia)
- Viral infections, such as influenza, COVID-19, or viral hepatitis
- Fungal infections, such as candida or aspergillosis
- Parasitic infections, such as malaria or leishmaniasis
- Infections related to medical devices, such as catheters or ventilators
It's important to note that not all infections lead to sepsis, and some people are at higher risk of developing sepsis than others. Factors that can increase the risk of sepsis include a weakened immune system, chronic illnesses like diabetes or cancer, and certain medical treatments or procedures. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have an infection, it's important to seek medical attention and follow your doctor's instructions for treatment and prevention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1.7 million adults in the United States develop sepsis each year, and more than 270,000 Americans die as a result of sepsis annually. This makes sepsis a leading cause of death in the country. Globally, sepsis is estimated to affect more than 30 million people each year and is responsible for nearly 6 million deaths. Sepsis can affect anyone, regardless of age or overall health status, but certain populations, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, are at higher risk of developing sepsis and experiencing severe complications. Early recognition and prompt treatment of sepsis is critical for improving outcomes and reducing the risk of death.
To sum it up, sepsis is no joke and can be life-threatening. It can come on fast and without warning, but there are signs to look out for. As moms, we always put ourselves last and sometimes push through the pain, but it's essential to listen to your body and get help immediately when it comes to sepsis. My experience with sepsis was tough, but it taught me the importance of caring for myself and not ignoring warning signs. I hope my story helps other moms out there know what to look for and what to do if they suspect sepsis. Just remember, this blog post is not meant to replace medical advice, and if you or a loved one are experiencing any concerning symptoms, please seek professional medical attention immediately.
Keep informed, care for yourself and your family, and stay healthy!