Sepsis Awareness: Speak Up, Ask Questions

Have you ever looked a loved one in the eyes, and reminded them of your end of life wishes? 

I have. 

Have you ever looked your mother in the eyes wondering if this would really be where you say goodbye?

I have.

Each time I talk about the trauma I went through while I was septic last year, I’m reminded of the hole it left me. Each time I’ve been septic, it’s taken something from me I have never been able to get back. I’ve talked to a few others with similar experiences, and we each have that feeling. Being that sick, sometimes coming that close to dying seemingly takes something from you; and honestly, I couldn’t really explain to you what exactly that means.

I have a central line; one that I use daily and have since 2016. Having a central line comes with risk, and infection is one of them. In that time, I’ve been septic four times. The one that sticks with me though, is being septic last summer while training for a half marathon.

Sometimes, it just happens. You can be careful, do everything right, and still end up with a central line infection and become septic. Other times, improper care can be the cause. Either way, it’s not something I would wish on anyone.

That morning I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what. I was training for a half marathon and thought maybe I had just overdone it the day before. It wasn’t until I took my temperature that I knew….and off to the hospital I went.

My mom brought me, like she had the times before. We knew time is always a factor when it came to an infection and got to the hospital as soon as possible. This time though, symptoms progressed fast.

I won’t give you all the details. Some of them honestly are a little fuzzy. I just remember laying in that ER room, feeling something I hadn’t felt before; my body was giving up. I can’t explain it well, I never was able to. I was losing the battle in that moment and I looked at my mom truly believing this was it. I had to remind her what I wanted done with my body if I didn’t make it, remember to donate the viable organs, and tell everyone I loved them. 

I got to the hospital in time. I got medicine in time. They were able to remove the infected port in time. The first two days of being in the hospital I really don’t remember. My first real memory was talking to a doctor and my parents after things had settled down, asking when I could resume my training.

I recently talked at the NORD Living Rare Forum about how running has helped me survive over the years. My doctors and I are all in agreement that running kept my body strong enough to survive. That, and getting to the hospital when I did. None of us want to go to the ER but sometimes there isn’t a choice, and it’s the thing that helps us survive.

I survived something that others haven’t. I survived something that has taken the lives of friends. I survived something I didn’t think I would. Now when I run, I run with more oomph. Every run I am eternally grateful for because I know I got lucky. Resuming training after that was brutal. My body was slower and I had to work harder. Running is hard enough with chronic illness; this was much more than I ever anticipated. 

I decided a long time ago my life was worth fighting for. Chronic illness or not, my life is worth something, and I am determined to prove to myself and the world that absolutely nothing will keep my from accomplishing what I set out to achieve. I might go at it differently, a little slower and take some detours, but I’ll damn well get it done. 

All that said, what I’ve learned from being septic and needing multiple line replacements is this:

· Speak up! If you don’t like how someone is handling your line, say something!

 

· Follow the steps you’re taught in handling your line. Everyone may be slightly different, but clean/sterile technique is the same!


· If you have ANY feeling something may be off, call your doctor or go to the ER! Better to be safe than sorry.


· You can deny access to your line. Now, I ask for an IV during any procedure now and tell the team not to use my line unless it’s absolutely necessary.


· Ask questions about your line during care/dressing changes. When I had my line I always asked WHY things were done a certain way so I could learn, and that helped me understand how to take care of it!


· This is a hard one, but sometimes infections happen no matter how good your line care is. Don’t beat yourself up too badly, and do what you can to improve on your technique!


For more from Samantha, follow on Instagram: @ibelieve693