On April 2nd 2011, my life changed completely. I was unaware of what was going on, what my surroundings were and who was around me. My parents were just a blur and the doctors only a very vague presence. I did not know what was happening to me or why, but it was clear from both the rushing, panic stricken faces of doctors and parents and the pain that I was dying.
It was an intrinsic thought; my body knew it was failing and my mind concluded the rest. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move and worst of all, I couldn’t think. The only thing I could concentrate on was the pulverising, numbing constant pain my stomach, which felt like it would rip me apart every time I coughed. I was swollen and dazed.
Since it wasn’t obvious what my diagnosis was I was automatically placed on a drip and given morphine, which was most pleasurable. I felt like I hadn’t a care in the world, everything was fantastic and lovely, nothing could hurt me and I was fabulous.
I spent the night in hospital not knowing who or where I was; at around 4am I woke up and texted my mum. It was Mother’s Day and I had to wish her a happy Mother’s Day whether ill or not; I missed her. It’s clear now by the mere fact I remember this that the morphine had indeed worn off – I came round at 5am in agonising pain, a plethora of doctors around me, beeping noises ringing through my semi-conscious brain and an oxygen mask placed over my mouth. I had no clue what was happening, much like before, but I knew I was failing, my body was failing. I couldn’t breath. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, the morphine had worn off, the pain was unthinkable.
Through beeps and bangs and the mangled flesh of the doctors I vaguely heard the words ‘emergency surgery.’ I never considered the true power of the mind – it took all of my strength but I grabbed my phone and texted my mum. I was given more morphine and scheduled for surgery at the earliest time slot. In the morning I was woken up by a doctor taking my nail varnish off my toes, which I didn’t associate with anything other aesthetics, until a group of doctors came in. I still had my oxygen mask on although I had no clue how it had got there or where I was.
I still couldn’t move, I just lay there, serene in the thought that I was going home soon (although I had no idea where home was). I couldn’t fathom what the doctors were telling me. They were a blur and sounded like they were speaking through water; it was when my bed started to move and I was jolted by the pain that I again heard the word “surgery.” Again, the human mind is an excruciatingly powerful thing – I freaked out. Where were my parents? What time was it? Where was I? No, I’m not going for surgery without my parents here! What if I wake up in the middle?! Then again…what if I DON’T wake up?! I quickly texted my mum and told her to “get her arse down here THEY’RE TAKING ME FOR SURGERY.” I had kicked up so much of a fuss that the surgeons waited for my parents and what felt like a lifetime (ten minutes) later, my parents arrived.
They looked positive, they looked calm, so I was calm. They held my hand until the last possible second upon when I started screaming. What if I didn’t wake up? All the fuss I kicked up left me in so much pain, too much pain for my exhausted mind to handle. So I stopped trying, I stopped trying to figure out what was happening and what my body was doing; I shut down. I don’t remember even going past the doors in the ward, the last thing I remember is seeing the doctors pull the bed and my parents contorted smiles. And that was it.
I woke up five days later in ICU, although I don’t remember waking. My memory was badly affected; there was too much trauma to deal with. Memories come in the form of flashbacks of which I still don’t know the triggers. I didn’t know who I was and I still don’t remember who my previous self was, I’m a completely different person because I simply cannot remember in full.
I had been placed in an induced coma and on life support. After surgery the surgeons had tried letting me breath on my own but to no avail. I couldn’t breath independently and there was a real, unspoken risk of brain damage because it was undetermined how long my brain had been starved of oxygen. For 5 days my fate was unknown. My parents were in what can only be described as hell, as they were told there was no hope, my kidneys and liver were shutting down and the only option that could be entertained was that my age could possibly pull me through. Basically, it was all up to me now to fight. And I did.
For those 5 days my brain decided it was best to give me the most lucid, horrifying dreams for entertainment. For the days after I woke up, my brain decided that hallucinations would be preferred to reality. I still thought I was going to die. Whether it would be due to illness or the man in a top hat ominously standing at the foot of my bed was a lottery. I must have been a complete pain in the ICU, but nothing compared to how terrifying those few days were. I didn’t know I’d had surgery, but I couldn’t move, which was distressing to say the least. I’d cry each night and throw up, which would feel like my insides were being torn apart. I was on morphine but I could still feel every last pain in my body. I just wanted my mum. I’d cry for her and call out for her in the night. I’d scream because I thought the various hallucinations were reality and I thought I was alone and dying. It’s difficult to write about it because to convey everything, every last emotion would be a mammoth task.
After a few days I was seen by a speech therapist and physiotherapists; I had noticed that I couldn’t move my legs which was possibly one of the most traumatising feelings ever. They got me out of bed and I tried my hardest to walk but I couldn’t support my weight – I managed one step. That one step felt like I had climbed Everest and I was beaming. I sat in a special comfy chair (which wasn’t comfy as I had a catheter in) and watched as they took my bed away to clean it. Me and a nurse had conspired it would be brilliant if I stayed in the chair to get my bed cleaned and surprised my parents.
It was 2pm and visiting hours. I heard my mum come round the corner and panic asking where I was – and then she saw me. She gasped, and tears started rolling down her face. I didn’t realise why this was at the time but I suppose that was a pretty good indication that I wasn’t in fact going to die as previously thought – her baby was getting better. I felt so proud id walked.
Over the next few days I was moved to HDU, where I progressed in my walking (I would get up when the nurses weren’t looking and shuffle about) and my health. I was eventually moved to a ward where I was stable enough to drink out of a normal cup rather than a sippy cup and drink tea. My eating was getting better as my stomach had shrunk quite a bit and eventually I could go home. My stomach healed up fine but I’m still feeling the after effects. I had to retake my first year of university and I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, experiencing a lot of terrible flashbacks often preventing me from certain activities. All in all I spent a month in hospital, and this is only a very brief account of my time suffering from sepsis.
Doctors still aren’t sure what caused it, which is something I struggle with since I don’t know how to effectively prevent it from happening again. I’d been told that for 2 weeks previous I had been complaining daily of stomach ache. The whole point of this is to raise awareness; if I had listened to my body and knew what was going to happen I would have taken action long before.